The Spaniard has four bronze medals and two silvers to his name, the first coming back in 2003 on his Worlds debut when he was second to teammate Igor Astarloa – a result he claims made him feel like he’d won the gold. However, the 35-year-old fears that the course in Richmond is far from ideal for him to finally turn that elusive gold medal into a reality.
“It will be complicated – the circuit is not the most favourable to me. It’s clear that we are going to give it everything but it’s not the best for me and that’s that,” he said in an interview posted on the Spanish Cycling Federation’s website.
Valverde fears the course won’t make for a race selective enough to give him a chance of glory; that if some of the faster finishers are still in tow by the end then he’s bound to lose out. It will be down to his teammates to help to split the race, but he may yet find a different ally in nature. With clouds looming over Richmond, rain could well help in producing the desired effect of a thinner field come the final lap.
“The key will be to stay alert. We’ll have to see what the course throws up, if things break up a lot or not at all. Of course if it breaks up then it’s going to be much better for me. The fewer riders in the front group the better for me," acknowledged Valverde.
"Rain is never good for any course. The risks are greater. This course has its idiosyncrasies, with the pavé for example. Pavé in the wet is always significantly more complicated. There are also a fair amount of turns. If it rains it could be a completely different Worlds, so yes, I reckon it’s going to be an extremely tough Worlds.”
If the course doesn’t break up to Valverde’s liking, and things come down to a large bunch sprint, then there is the chance he’ll have to sacrifice his own ambitions to tee things up for Spanish sprinter Juanjo Lobato.
Valverde’s ability to cooperate with teammates at national level has been under the spotlight ever since the infamous Florence Worlds in 2013 when Rui Costa – his trade teammate – managed to come away with the win despite being outnumbered by Valverde and Joaquim Rodríguez in the closing stages. The Spanish duo’s fractious relationship came to the boil again at the Vuelta a Espana a couple of weeks ago, when Valverde upset Rodríguez by sprinting on the ceremonial final day and taking the points jersey from his shoulders.
“Fine, perfect,” Valverde says when asked about how things are with Rodríguez. “I think the press at times blows things out of proportion. He made some declarations that were maybe a bit inappropriate, when you’re still at 190 hearbeats per minute and he said he wasn’t happy.
“We had already talked about it and he was completely in agreement – he said it in the heat of the moment. The relationship is good. Now we are together in the team and it’s a different matter.”
Valverde reached for a similarly dilplomatic tact when talking of Lobato: “If things don’t break up, it’s clear that at the moment the fastest rider on our team is Lobato." However, he did temper that by saying: “It’s is first Worlds and we’re not going to ask too much of him – he has to learn.
“During the race we’ll see how things play out, we may do one thing or we may do another. We’ll see how he’s feeling, also how I’m feeling, and everyone else in the team.
“If it comes down to a bunch sprint and I’m in there and he says he’s feeling good, we’ll be realistic – he’s quicker than me.”