Valverde to make Tour of Flanders debut in 2016

Movistar have confirmed that Alejandro Valverde will ride both the Tour of Flanders and the Giro d’Italia for the first time in 2016. The announcement was made on Friday during a media event at the team’s training camp in Pamplona, saying that the plan was to “arrive as fresh as possible” at the Olympic Games.

Earlier this week, Spanish newspaper El Pais revealed that Valverde would make his debut at the Giro d’Italia but the team had said that this was not certain. It seems with this announcement that his participation in the Italian Grand Tour is certain.

The Tour of Flanders will also be a new entry in the 35-year-old's calendar in 2016 and will be used as preparation for the corsa rosa. Valverde has some experience on the cobbles after riding Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke in 2014 in preparation for the cobbled stages at that year’s Tour de France. He coped well and finished in the main group behind winner Niki Terpstra at Dwars.

"The idea is to do one-day races in order to arrive as fresh as possible in Rio, another of my big objectives," said Valverde. "This year is the time to try the Giro, which has been something I've wanted to do for years, and I'm also keen to contest the cobbled Classics like Flanders."

Movistar confirmed that Valverde’s sole stage race ahead of the Giro would be Tirenno-Adriatico, which he hasn’t ridden since his debut season in 2002. The first portion of the season will revolve around one-day racing ahead of the Giro, and there'll be a strong Italian feel to it, with Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo also on the menu. The Spaniard will also go to the Tour de France in July, where he will support Nairo Quintana's bid for a first yellow jersey along with riding himself into pre-Olympic form. 

"After so many years as a professional, we thought that this could be a good year for Alejandro to go to the Giro, even if we are yet to run it by Telefónica [Movistar's parent company] - they don't cause problems with our decisions, but it's something we prefer to consult them about," said the team's boss Eusebio Unzué.

"They have suggested many times that we try more Classics with Valverde, and although he already does several each year, the first part of his calendar will revolve around them. We believe that with the support of his teammates he will be able to do really well on the pavé, which is perhaps the most novel aspect of his calendar."

Valverde will be riding a very different programme to his teammate Quintana, who is set to begin the year at the Tour de San Luis and will also ride the Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta al Pais Vasco. The Colombian's main goals will be the Tour de France in July and the Olympic Games road race the following month, and it is likely that he will then go on to ride the Vuelta a Espana. 

"With regards to Nairo, after what he did this year, the idea is to keep the Tour as his big, big objective - a race he has shown he has the potential to win," said Unzué. 

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