Alejandro Valverde says there’s ‘room for surprise left’ as he continues racing into his forties

The former world champion admits it will be hard to win Il Lombardia next after finishing runner-up for the third time in 2019

As his 2019 season comes to a close, Alejandro Valverde has said there “might be some room for surprise left” as he looks towards racing into his forties.

The Movistar rider will turn 40 in April next year and recently renewed his contract with the team to take his career through to at least 2021. The Spaniard finished runner-up at Il Lombardia for the third time in his career yesterday, and although he admits it will get harder for him to continue fighting for major victories he says his longevity at the top of the sport is a reason not to rule him out going forward.

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“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, that’s cycling,” Valverde said of his Il Lombardia performance. “I’ll be 40 next year and it’ll be hard to aim for a victory again here, but you can see that I’m still here after so, so long, doing even better than in previous seasons, so there might be some room for surprise left!”

Valverde also finished runner-up at this year’s Vuelta a España behind Primož Roglič, while also finishing second in numerous other races in 2019. Adding Il Lombardia to this string of second places has left a bittersweet taste, the former world champion says.

“I’m satisfied with this second place, but knowing that I had the legs to win, I’m left with a bittersweet taste. This is an important race, a Monument, one that I really love, and hence the feeling I’ve got at the end.”

Bauke Mollema was able to sneak away from the group of favourites, countering after attacks from Valverde and Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale) and staying away for the final 18km to seal a second major victory for Trek-Segafredo following Demark’s Mads Pedersen taking the men’s road race at the Yorkshire World Championships.

“There was a lot of everyone looking at each other near the end,” Valverde explained, the chase group having failed to get organised in their pursuit of the Dutchman, “and that makes it easier for a solo rider, with less vigilance, to go away and stick at the front until the end.”

Valverde had attacked again with 5km to go, trying to claw back the 20-second deficit to Mollema on his own, but eventually had to settle for out-sprinting Egan Bernal (Ineos) to second place.

“Bauke took advantage to attack, make a big move and use his energy well to succeed. Hats off to him – he’s a deserved winner. I tried to attack again at San Fermo – I had jumped before at Civiglio, but once caught, I didn’t want to keep the pace because there was still one tough climb left – and even gave it a try at the summit, but seeing that they were just behind, I waited for them to push together and see if we could gain some time on Bauke.”

Alejandro Valverde is one of the big names remaining at Movistar for 2020, as Mikel Landa departs for Bahrain-Merida and Nairo Quintana goes to Arkéa-Samsic. Enric Mas has been signed from Deceuninck – Quick-Step to replenish the talent among their ranks, but it’s likely the Spanish outfit will look once again to Valverde for results in 2020.