By Gregor Brown
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has his sights on an Olympic gold medal in 2020 as his "ultimate goal" in a long career.
The 39-year-old Spaniard just placed second overall in the Vuelta a España 10 years after winning it. He lines up to defend his rainbow jersey in the World Championships on Sunday in Yorkshire.
"I don't think about what I have left, I live from day to day but Tokyo 2020 is a goal," Valverde told El Partidazo de COPE. "There is no pressure, but yes, it could be a real goal, my ultimate goal."
The Tokyo Games road race is on July 25 after the Tour de France. Valverde plans to be there and more as his contract runs through 2021, when he would be 41 years old.
He last participated in the 2016 Olympics, placing 30th behind Belgian winner Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team). The 2020 Olympic course includes 4865 meters of climbing with the last climb coming 34km from the line.
Valverde's massive palmarès incudes four titles in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, five in Flèche Wallonne and four stage wins in the Tour de France, in addition to third overall in 2015 behind winner Chris Froome and team-mate Nairo Quintana.
He was the second oldest winner of the World Championships in 2018, just behind Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk, the 1985 victor. Over the past year, he kept going with five wins including the Vuelta's Mas de la Costa climb stage of eventual overall winner Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) .
"I couldn't even think of being like this at my age. I know that I have form for a while, but to be there at my age fighting for the Vuelta a España, winning World Championships…" continued Valverde.
"The year has been fantastic, but it is true that the first months were a bit hard because the victories did not come. Wearing the rainbow jersey is super nice, but you also have an extra load."
The World Championships road race starts in Leeds and ends in Harrogate after 285 kilometres.
"The route is not excessively hard like last year, but with the distance and around 4000 meters of climbing, it will be demanding."
He has not raced since the Vuelta a España ended just under two weeks ago. He was at 2-33 minutes behind Roglič in Madrid.
"I finished the Vuelta more tired last year, but then we had two weeks and in two weeks, you have enough time for the body to recover," he said in a press release from Spain's federation.
"This year, I have finished better. It's impossible to do better than last year, but that does not mean that this year we can do the same. Win or not, we are going to try to repeat it."
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