Valverde, Movistar team-mate Nairo Quintana, and fellow GC rider Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) took part in Dwars Door Vlaanderen in order to get a taste of the cobbles and the Classics style of racing ahead of stage nine of this year’s Tour de France, which covers a number of cobbled sectors on the way to Roubaix.
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However while Quintana and Bardet finished in 60th and 73rd place respectively, Valverde looked at home in the wet and windy cobbled race, putting in numerous attacks and finishing in a group including Tour of Flanders favourites such as Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors).
Speaking ahead of Dwars Door Vlaanderen on Tuesday, Valverde said that he was tempted to stay on in Belgium to race the Tour of Flanders, but despite his strong showing on Wednesday he has now decided to stick to his original plan of travelling to Spain for the GP Miguel Indurain which he won in 2014.
“We have been weight it up, but in the end we have decided to go home,” Valverde told Spanish radio station El Larguero.
“I would like to race [the Tour of Flanders], but I have taken a lot out of myself with continuous, really hard, racing. The GP Miguel Indurain is a hard race, but nothing like Flanders.”
Watch: Cobbled Classics essential guide 2018
Some bookmakers had been offering odds of 25/1 on Valverde pulling off an unlikely victory at the Tour of Flanders, a race which he has never taken part in in the past.
However despite Valverde’s absence, there will be at least one GC rider taking to the start line in Antwerp on Sunday, with Vincenzo Nibali not only racing to get a tasted of the Classics action, but with Bahrain-Merida even saying that the four-time Grand Tour winner will be leading a team that also includes riders such as Sonny Colbrelli, who took top 10s in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and Heinrich Haussler, a previous top 10 finisher at both Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
The 2018 Tour of Flanders takes place in Belgium on Sunday, April 1. The gruelling 260.8km route includes 18 climbs and cobbled sectors. Crashes and mechanical mishaps can play as much a part of the race as strength, stamina and tactics.