Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) is willing to risk his season as world champion in order to debut in the Tour of Flanders this April 7.
The Spaniard will take his rainbow jersey, won in the Worlds in Innsbruck, to Belgium. It is the first time for Valverde, a Grand Tour and climber for the Ardennes Classics, having won Liège-Bastogne-Liège four times and placed third in the Tour de France.
>> Struggling to get to the shops try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<
“They are beautiful races up there in Belgium. But they’re also dangerous, with a lot of tension, crashes,” Valverde told Cycling Weekly.
“We never wanted to risk my calendar, but this year we decided to go for it. The times that I have been there, things haven’t gone so badly. I am motivated, so we’ll see how it goes.”
This week he is racing in the UAE Tour having won the stage three summit finish to Jebel Hafeet and moved to second overall behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
Valverde, now 38, lit the cobbles on fire last year when he raced the Dwars door Vlaanderen. He attacked and helped shape the semi-Classic, held in the rain in 2018, before the eventual victory of Yves Lampaert.
The idea was to taste the cobbles before the Tour de France, which featured sections of Paris-Roubaix. He liked it and also noted what Grand Tour star Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) did in Flanders that spring. Now he wants to go with the rainbow bands.
“I’ve never been, and with the rainbow jersey, it’s a good moment to go to Flanders. I’ve always wanted to go. I really want to know the race this year, and I want to enjoy it as much as I can,” he said.
“It’s beautiful to be with the world champion jersey in a race like Flanders. The public has a right to see it.”
Nibali talks about one day pushing further and racing Paris-Roubaix, which would be much more dangerous and demanding for a small grand tour rider. Valverde, who could retire soon, said the French monument is not on his bucket list.
“It’s very complicated and very difficult to think of that,” Valverde said. “It’s very dangerous and the crashes there, in any race you can crash, but there you can crash a lot easier.
“In Flanders you can crash, but the pavé is usually on the climbs, so it’s different. We’ll try, and see how it goes.”