Alejandro Valverde has said he will end his two 2020 Grand Tour participations before their conclusion in order to focus on his main goals for the season.
Both the Olympic road race in Tokyo and the UCI Road World Championships follow the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, with each one-day course suited to Valverde’s abilities, and the Spaniard has said he’ll look to capitalise on this.
“Yes, that’s the idea. Those who know recognise that it is very complicated to arrive at the Games one hundred percent if you compete to the fullest until the last day in France,” Valverde told Marca. “Therefore, except surprise, that is the plan and I think the best decision.
“The same goes for La Vuelta. We will return with fatigue from Japan and will need some time to adapt. I’ll probably not get to the Vuelta in my best form but it will serve to prepare the World Championships.”
The Tokyo road race tackles the lower slopes of Mount Fuji and features 4,865m of climbing throughout the 234km course. Other top riders such as Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) have already said they also intend to target Olympic gold, so Valverde will have his work cut out.
A couple of months later, the Road World Championships will take place at the home of the UCI in Switzerland, and features a 10 per cent incline up to the finish, which will also suit the 2018 champion’s strengths.
This win in Innsbruck, Austria, two years ago means that Valverde is more focused on the title he hasn’t won, and at the age of 39 Tokyo will undoubtedly be his last chance at an Olympic gold medal.
“It will be another beautiful challenge but, having already conquered it, I have more hope in the Games. We will go challenge by challenge,” Valverde said.
“[The Olympics] will be the priority objective, but there will be others. I want to get to Tokyo in as good form as possible. The World Championships will also be an important event, but for now I am focused on the Games. It is the great achievement that I lack and makes me very excited.”
Released from the pressures of sporting the rainbow bands in 2020, swapping it for the Spanish road champion’s jersey, Valverde says he won less than he would have liked last year. However, riders don’t accumulate the record sheet the Spaniard has by being satisfied with what you’ve already won.
“It has been a positive year, maybe I earned less than I thought but I enjoyed it, especially for having worn the world champion jersey during these months,” Valverde said.
“It is true that being a world champion involves many efforts because behind there are acts, trips, interviews…it is time that is lost and that makes you even more disciplined when it comes to improving your training. The good thing is that being a world champion is already something that nobody is going to take from me.”
While Valverde says his racing days won’t be much different despite the added goals, he says he will “start more calmly” in the opening chapters of the season.
One big change, however, is the dismantling of the infamous Movistar trident, with Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) leaving the team, putting an end to the three-pronged attack that has failed to deliver at previous Tours.
Enric Mas has instead arrived from Deceuninck – Quick-Step, but Valverde is likely to be the out-and-out leader for the Spanish squad at any race he attends.
“There must be good vibes, there is a calendar for everyone,” Valverde says of the upcoming season. “We will work perfectly, if one has to sacrifice for the other there will be no problem.”