Alejandro Valverde may be forced to abandon plans to ride the Giro d’Italia after he suffered nasty injuries in a training crash on his birthday.
The Movistar rider came down three days before Liège-Bastogne-Liège, later abandoning the final spring Monument just over 100km from home.
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His team said the four-time winner had pulled out due to “various physical problems,” but did not give further details.
Hospital scans carried out on Monday (April 29) revealed Valverde was suffering from a buildup of fluid in his lower back after the fall.
A statement from Movistar, released on Tuesday (April 30) said: “Alejandro Valverde underwent scans in Murcia on Monday to examine the area damaged by his crash during a training ride last Thursday, prior to Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“The checkups confirmed bone edema in his sacrum.
“[His] Giro appearance depends on his recovery.”
This year the reigning world champion was due to ride only his second Giro d’Italia, alongside fellow Spaniard Mikel Landa.
Valverde, who celebrated his 39th birthday on Thursday, has struggled to find previous form so far this season.
He has taken just one stage win so far in 2019 – stage three of the UAE Tour – and does not have a general classification victory to his name.
By the end of April last year Valverde had taken nine wins, including three overall titles.
Last month, Valverde announced the date he plans to retire from professional cycling.
He confirmed he plans to ride the Tokyo Olympics next year, then ride one more season before retiring in 2021.
“I will do one more season after the Olympic Games in Tokyo. I think that’s fine.
“I want to be at home and enjoy time with my family.
“Then I will see if I dedicate myself to the team of kids I’m promoting in Murcia or if I’m still involved with Movistar.
“In 2021 I will have ridden 19 seasons.”