Valverde will also make his debut in the Tour of Flanders and the Giro d’Italia in the coming season, at the age of 34. But in an extensive and frank interview with Spanish daily El Mundo published two days before his season gets underway at the four-day Mallorca Challenge, the Spanish veteran did not hide his overriding interest in racing for an Olympic gold medal this summer.
Already named by national coach Javier Minguez as the leader for the Spanish selection for Rio – “and there’s no discussion about that” – Valverde’s best placing in the Olympics was twelfth in the Beijing road race in 2008, won by Spanish national teammate Samuel Sánchez.
“I can do well on the circuit they’ve designed in Rio,” Valverde told El Mundo. “I will do more one-day racing [in 2016] and I’ll see what I can do in the Giro d’Italia and I’ll help Nairo Quintana in the Tour de France, but I’ll be doing those races with Rio in the back of my mind. I’ll be with him [Quintana in the Tour], but I will always be focused on how to be in best shape for the Games.
“I feel very motivated for Rio. It’s my fourth Olympics and it’s got a really good course for me. Of course I’m motivated.”
Valverde did admit, however, that he could not name three bike professional riders from Brazil, getting stuck after namechecking Murilo Fischer (FDJ).
Valverde will start his season this year, as he did in 2015, at the Mallorca Challenge, where last year he won one race, to Tramuntana, and finished second in another when he was overpowered by Steve Cummings. Asked if he had a sore rear during his first few weeks back in training after the off-season, Valverde conceded that “it’s a bit painful, but I’ve been racing for years and I’m pretty used to it. You get toughened up with time.
“Bike racing is my day-job, and in fact when I don’t train, that’s when I feel worse. To feel good, I have to be training.”
In El Mundo’s far-reaching interview, Valverde also admitted that he liked it when amateur riders joined him uninvited on training rides and that “if somebody starts trying to burn the rest of the group off their wheel, I like to join in.” On the subject of siestas, Valverde said: “If the stage I’m watching on TV is boring, I’m the first one to fall asleep,” and he revealed that the now-retired Spaniard Santos Gonzalez was the best joke-teller in the peloton: “Although only when we were going slowly. When we were going fast, just like everybody else, he would be crying.”
Asked – quite possibly for the first time in his lengthy career – whether he preferred having orgasms or winning bike races, Valverde described both as “equally satisfactory.” However, the Spaniard did not specify where in his personal list of pleasurable activities he would rate winning a gold medal in Rio this summer.