World champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has insisted that neither age nor injury have affected his performance as a racer and that, at 38, “I’m winning more and better now than I was when I was young.”
In a lengthy interview with El País, Valverde discussed the two occasions when his career ground to an abrupt halt, the first caused by his two-year ban for his involvement in the Operacion Puerto blood doping ring - a subject he has been very chary of discussing since he won the Worlds - and the second when he was badly injured during the opening time trial of the 2017 Tour de France.
But as the 38-year-old sees it, “for the last three years, I keep on thinking I can’t have a better season, and I do…I don’t stop surprising even myself.”
Valverde also said he “did not enjoy” the Tour de France, and that he was no obligation to go, strengthening the likelihood that he will do the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España next season. He also all but confirmed that he will be taking part in the Tour of Flanders in 2019.
A professional since 2002, Valverde told El País, “It’s been such a long career, that you’re bound to have good moments and bad ones. There have been two: one bad one, as we all know, was my two-year suspension, which for several years was unbearable. I lived without knowing…am I racing? Am I not racing? What’s in the papers? And that’s really tough. Once I was suspended, I thought, 'Ok, I’m suspended, whether it's fair or unfair, it doesn’t matter, I’m going to go through with it and then they’ll leave me in peace to race and show what I can do.'
“I won before, and after [the sanction]. I’ve shown that Valverde has won more and better than before, when he was younger.”
As for 2019, Valverde has said that he feels he “ought to be at the start of the Tour of Flanders, and more so with the world champion’s jersey. I owe it a little to the fans and to myself, although I’m aware that you have to know that race very well [to do well in it].”
Valverde was asked, if as world champion, he felt that he ought to take part in the Tour de France in order to show the rainbow bands in July. "I don’t think so," Valverde answered. "The Tour’s the best race there is, but I’m not under any obligation.
"They’ll want me to be there, of course, but you have to think about which races suit you better and which suit you worse. And at the Tour, I don’t enjoy myself.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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