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Valverde to target Tour de France before World Championships

Spanish road race champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on stage 1 of the 2020 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Former world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has confirmed another crack at the rainbow jersey this autumn, after racing the Tour de France, will figure high on his list of priorities for 2020’s revised calendar.

As ever with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, everything in bike racing in terms of the calendar hinges on a favourable scenario continuing to develop over the next few weeks and months. 

But assuming that's the case, Valverde likened the current 2020 position of the UCI Road World Championships, coming a week after the Tour de France, as being similar to the Clásica San Sebastian's usual slot on the first Saturday after the Tour.

"Usually, I come out of the Tour with very good form, you ease back a little, go for a few walks and then it's onto San Sebastian, which has been ideal for me in the past," Valverde told a video-transmitted press conference on Wednesday evening.

"But this time, it'll be onto the Worlds."

Tenth in San Sebastian last year, after he took ninth in the Tour de France, Valverde has won Spain's biggest one-day Classic in 2008 and 2014, as well as the World's in 2018.

Originally aiming to take part the Olympics, the suspension of the Tokyo Games has now put paid to rumours he might even pull out of the Tour mid-race. Instead, he'll be going all the way to Paris in the Tour.

"The objective this year was to do the Tour thinking about Tokyo but now, with no Olympics, that'll work for the Worlds - this way, by preparing for the Tour, you can kill two birds with one stone," Valverde said.

In the same press conference, team manager Eusebio Unzue confirmed that Valverde and Enric Mas will co-lead Movistar at the Vuelta a España and Tour de France. He also said that Marc Soler will head Movistar at the Giro d'Italia, leading a Grand Tour for the first time in his career.

Valverde will also take part in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a Monument he's won four times. However, Valverde pointed out that "with such a packed calendar, it's going to be tough to do more."

After spending most of Spain's ongoing lockdown at home in Murcia, Valverde said that it's been a very different year. "Things started out as normal, but nobody knows how their body will react to such a long period without racing," he said.

On the plus side, he said that his form is where it normally is at this time of year. "I feel like I usually do at this time of year, going out in summer in good weather and in dry-weather kit is always great. My form feels like it should do, not like in December.

"But it's going to be strange, this has never happened before, nobody knows if they'll have moments of weakness at the beginning, middle, or end of the Tour. What's definite is that we're all going to be feeling very motivated, whether we're domestiques or team leaders."

Regarding the rumours that Chris Froome (Ineos) could have joined Movistar with a mid-season transfer, Valverde said that while a rider of the calibre of Froome would be welcome, it wasn't likely to happen.

"All of us in the world of cycling knew it would be very hard for that to happen. It ended up being an anecdote." 

He was equally good-humoured but non-commital about having to race against Nairo Quintana, his former teammate for eight seasons prior to signing for Arkea-Samsic. "[It would be] an honour, each of us will fight for his own chances and that's all to it," he said.

As for the current line-up for Movistar, rather than a hypothetical or previous one, Unzue also confirmed that his three leaders will take part in the team's first post-lockdown race, the four day Vuelta a Burgos in Spain that starts on July 28. 

The three will then do the Critérium du Dauphiné, before Soler heads on towards Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro, while Valverde and Mas await the Tour de France start in Nice at the end of August. 

Overall the team, divided into three groups, aims to race a total of 120 days in 2020, Unzue said, 98 of them at WorldTour level.

"At first it was very strange when lockdown started, and it has gone on for much longer than we thought, but I'm very keen to get back into racing. I feel like I'm 30 again," Valverde said. 

As for whether Valverde will continue racing beyond his proposed retirement in 2021, given the events of 2020, the veteran Spaniard said he had no idea - yet. But he wasn't ruling the idea out.

"Ask Eusebio if he wants to sign me for longer!" Valverde said with a grin. "It's true that I said to myself during this lockdown period, 'hey, I could go on.'

"But I have a contract for another year, to the end of 2021, so let's get through this year, and see what happens the next."