This year Alejandro Valverde turned 38 years old. Whereas most riders finish their careers at around 36, and are usually not winning anything by this age, Alejandro Valverde seems to be in the best form of his life. This year he won the Tour of Catalonia, the Tour of Abu Dhabi and the Tour of Valencia. He also placed top five in races such as the Brabantse Pijl, the Amstel Gold Race and the Strade Bianchi. And the season is not finished yet: Valverde will also compete with the best in the Vuelta a España.
Before we continue highlighting Valverde’s recent successes, we must also mention a dark page in his history. From 2010 to 2012, Valverde was suspended for doping. Although he claims to have been unaware, Valverde was linked to the scandal uncovered by Operación Puerto (Operación Puerto was the code name of a Spanish Police operation that found high-level cases of doping in professional cycling around 2006). Initially, Valverde was let off the hook. Then, he was forbidden to ride on Italian soil, which meant he could not participate in the Tour of 2009, because it passed through a piece of Italian territory. Subsequently, Valverde received a worldwide ban. But the wins he had before those dates were not stripped from him, so his victory in the Vuelta 2009 remained in the books.
So, with that behind us, let us discuss the highlights of Valverde’s career. It began in 2002, when he was able to show Team Kelme at age 21 what he was capable of. And in 2004, it paid off for the first time, as he won the the Tours of Valencia, Burgos and Murcia, and became a rider to keep an eye on. He also placed fourth in the Vuelta of that year.
The first period of success
The following year, Valverde left for Team Caisse d’Epargne and achieved a stage win in the Tour. He was just 25 years old at the time. However, it was in 2006 that Valverde really broke through. He managed to finish that year as the leader in the UCI World Tour rankings. He also had victories in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Brabantse Pijl, which eventually turned out to be his favourite races. Today, Valverde has won the Brabantse Pijl no less than five times and Liège-Bastogne-Liège four times. He’s also had a good run racing in the Clásica San Sebastián: he’s won it twice and finished four times in the top three.
In terms of Grand Tours, Valverde clearly has had the most luck in the Vuelta. In 2009, he took first place. And despite not achieving another win he’s stood on the podium a total of five times. He’s been less successful, however, in the Tour, where often his name was found on the shortlist of favourites or outsiders but rarely amongst the winners. He had his best performance in 2015, when he finally ended up on the podium in third place.
Today, Valverde might not be able to compete with the best climbers, but as a classic rider he will be someone to watch. And in this Vuelta, we predict three moments where you can count on Valverde to shine, which makes him a rider that you should absolutely include in your pool.