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Valverde targets delayed Tokyo Olympics: In 2021, I'll be racing

CULLERA SPAIN FEBRUARY 06 Alejandro Valverde of Spain and Movistar Team feeduring the 71st Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2020 Stage 2 a 181km stage from Torrent to Cullera 181m VueltaCV VCV2020 on February 06 2020 in Cullera Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Spanish road race champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Alejandro Valverde will be 41 years old by the time the postponed Tokyo Olympics are held next year, but the Spaniard has confirmed that he will target the event in 2021 – the final season of his existing contract at Movistar.

He had made the men’s road race in Tokyo the centrepiece of his 2020 season, but the Games have been postponed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Of course, I’ll be 41 years old then and everything will be more difficult, but I’ve got one more year on my contract," Valverde said in a video message on Wednesday. "In 2021, I’ll be racing. If the national coach selects me, I’ll be in the Olympics and trying to do the best I can."

World champion in 2018 and a medallist on six previous occasions, Valverde has never enjoyed success at the Olympics. He has participated in the road race in Athens, Beijing, London and Rio, with a best finish of 12th in 2008.

"The postponement of the Olympics was inevitable," Valverde said. "Nobody could train properly so it became more complicated and health comes first, for all."

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen all racing suspended, with the Spring Classics and Giro d’Italia among the events to be postponed. It is unclear when competition will resume, but Valverde said that he would now target the Tour de France if it were to go ahead.

Valverde had previously planned to use the Tour as preparation for the Tokyo Olympics and had suggested he might leave the race early given the five-day gap between the final stage in Paris and the men’s road race in Japan.

"It obviously changes my plans," Valverde said. "If we're able to race the Tour, it will be a completely different approach. We’ll tackle the Tour de France all out, giving 100 per cent, together with a strong team with Enric [Mas] and Marc [Soler]. We’ll be going full gas there and in all the races at the end of the season."

The hiatus from racing might also have an impact on the longer-term plans of Valverde, who recently revealed his intention to retire at the end of 2021. He has been a professional since 2002, though he spent 18 months on the sidelines in 2010 and 2011 when he was banned for his implication in the Operacion Puerto blood doping inquiry.

"With this stop, I don’t know if I’ll extend my contract or not but I’m planning on riding a full season in 2021," said Valverde, who is due to remain as a team ambassador when he hangs up his wheels. "After that, I’ll remain part of Abarca [Movistar Team’s holding company – ed.]"

Spain is one of the countries worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the country has been in lockdown for the past ten days. Unlike in other countries, professional riders are unable to train outdoors. Valverde has been riding on his turbo trainer for the past ten days and he stressed the importance of complying with the government’s measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.

"The first thing everyone most do is stay at home. Don’t go out, except for the things you need. Go to the chemist, the grocery store, those are necessary. But for the rest, stay and home and enjoy family time," Valverde said. "We’ll get through this together and we’ll enjoy our freedom even more when it’s over."