Alejandro Valverde is always worth beating

Alejandro Valverde hasn’t won any really big races since he returned from his doping ban at the start of 2012. Instead, standing on a lower step of the podium, he serves as a badge of quality for whoever’s above him. He always rides well, in all sorts of different races, but he doesn’t win. In short, he’s a man who’s always worth beating.

Bridesmaidery

Valverde’s certainly had wins in the last couple of years. He’s won a stage in the Tour, a few in the Vuelta and he’s won the Tour of Andalucia three times, but it’s what he’s not quite won which really stands out.

2012

  • 2nd in the Vuelta
  • 2nd in the World Championships road race
  • 3rd in Paris-Nice
  • 2nd in the Tour Down Under

2013

Those are all massive races. Most riders would target just a couple of them and perhaps that’s the problem. Valverde seems to ride well all year long, in all sorts of different races, without quite being able to cross the line first.

Until this weekend

Things were shaping up as normal with a third place in Strade Bianche, but on Sunday Valverde won Roma Maxima.

The Campi di Annibale climb came with 35 kilometres to go and Valverde, who is a very good climber, started peppering the peloton with attacks. Each time he went, the main group stretched in response and shed a few people off the back until there was just a vague spatter of riders on the road.

However, there is a man who can climb better than Valverde and when the road steepened halfway up, he cruised away from everyone. Yes, it was a first sighting of the season for official site hero, Domenico Pozzovivo.

By the top, Valverde was the only man within a country mile of our guy. But being as he can’t descend or ride on the flat, Domenico was going to need help getting to the finish, so he basically waited for the Spaniard. The two then worked well together to stay ahead of the main group right up until the finishing straight – even though there was no way Pozzovivo could win because he also can’t sprint.

As they approached the line, the peloton was right on top of them. Pozzovivo was overtaken and finished fifth, but Valverde, for once, emerged with a relatively major win.

What’s next?

Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico – I’ve already told you. For Valverde, he’s taking a bit of time off now. He says he’s focusing on the Tour, the Vuelta and the World Championships this year. I don’t know whether that means he’s skipping the Ardennes classics next month or whether he’s merely planning on finishing third in a couple of them.