The 2018 road race world champion, Alejandro Valverde (Spain), was unable to defend his title in the elite men's road race at the World Championships in Yorkshire on Sunday, quitting the race with 90km still to go due to the cold and wet conditions.
"I was completely frozen," Valverde told Spanish website Marca.com. "I would have liked to have finished, out of respect for my teammates and Spain generally, but I couldn't.
"It was really bad: very cold, windy and rainy, and I was totally frozen," he repeated.
"Rather than just try to follow and then eventually quit, I decided to stop when I did," said Valverde, climbing off with seven of the nine finishing circuits still to go, having covered 170km of the 261km race distance.
Spain's best-placed finisher, Gorka Izagirre, took ninth spot in Harrogate, and was one of only three finishers from the eight-man Spanish team, along with younger brother Ion (16th place) and Imanol Erviti (44th). The ninth member of the squad – Iván García Cortina – was a non-starter due to illness.
"The conditions were terrible, which was a pity, as that really didn't do us any favours," Izagirre told AS.com. "It was a shame for Alejandro to have to abandon, too."
Izagirre added that he was disappointed with his result as he "felt I had the legs for something more".
"I almost made it into the winning break," he continued, "but I didn't, and the race was over for us after that. But we have to be proud of having given it our best shot in Alejandro's absence. We did everything we could."
Spanish national coach Pascual Momparler, who replaced last year's winning coach Javier Minguez, added that he, too, was pleased with his squad's efforts.
"If we take into account the things that didn't go our way – the bad weather, Cortina getting sick on the morning of the race, and then Alejandro having had to pull out – Gorka's ninth place proved that we know how to get something out of a bad situation," he told AS. "Without our team leader, Izagirre was still able to finish in the top 10, with his brother not far behind him."
Marca noted that with only 46 finishers of the road race on Sunday – from 197 starters – it was the lowest number of finishers since the 1995 Worlds in Daitama, Colombia, when only 20 riders (out of 98 starters) finished the race.
That year, Spain's Abraham Olano took the rainbow jersey, while this year, AS pointed out, the Spanish team were forced to return home from these World Championships without a single medal from any of the events.
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