Alejandro Valverde to return to racing with new Movistar gravel squad

Spanish veteran will pin on numbers in his first ever gravel race at ‘La Indomable’ in Spain on 23 April

Alejandro Valverde riding a gravel bike on a gravel track
(Image credit: Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde is set to return to competitive racing, as part of Movistar’s new gravel squad.

Last year, the Spanish veteran announced that he would retire from the road at the end of the 2022 campaign.

However, in an announcement from Movistar this morning, the team confirmed that the 42-year-old would return to competition as part of its new gravel arm, a first amongst current WorldTour teams.

The first two races on the calendar for the Movistar gravel squad are both in Spain. First up is ‘La Indomable’, a 105 kilometre race in Southern Andalusia, on Sunday 23 April, followed by the Traka in Girona on 29 April.

The gravel squad will include riders from Movistar’s road, and esports teams. Iván García Cortina will be competing alongside Valverde, as well as Ana Dillana and Hayley Simmonds of the esports squad.

According to the team, Valverde, Dillana and Simmonds are set to race at ‘La Indomable’, with Cortina joining the squad a week later at the Traka.

Spanish brand Gobik, the team's current kit supplier, has produced a new jersey for the team's new project. According to a press release from Movistar, the design “honours the adventurous and non-conformist spirit of gravel”.

Movistar have said that more riders will be announced for the new project “in the near future”.

As a discipline, gravel racing has massively risen in recent months, with the inaugural gravel World Championships taking place in late October last year in the Veneto region of Italy. The men’s race was won by Belgium’s Gianni Vermeersch, with Pauline Ferrand-Prévot taking the elite women’s title.

Multiple road stars were on the start line including Mathieu van der Poel, Magnus Cort, Peter Sagan and Greg van Avermaet. Sagan also rode the Unbound gravel event in Kansas, USA in June.

After a successful first edition, the second edition of the gravel world championships will be held in Italy again in 2023 before the competition moves to Belgium for 2024.

Looking ahead to when the competition ventures to his home roads, Wout van Aert has previously suggested that he would consider including the gravel world championships in his schedule for the current year.

“I watched the last edition on television and thought it was nice to see,” Van Aert said regarding last year’s race won by his fellow Belgian Vermeersch. “I was positively surprised at how much attention this world championship received. I think the world championship on gravel has a great future.”

“Yes, I know that the gravel worlds will be held again in Italy next year and then in Belgium the following year,” Van Aert added. “Maybe I’ll do it in the years to come.”

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