Alejandro Valverde is occasionally the bride
Now that I look upon his breathtaking white dress, it suddenly seems inaccurate to call Alejandro Valverde a perennial bridesmaid. If he fulfilled the role once again at Amstel Gold, finishing second, it turned out that this was merely an omen of what was to come. A win in Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday was followed by an even bigger win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday. Two wins and a second place in the three Ardennes Classics is a tidy return.
Valverde has a reputation as a ‘wheelsucker’. This isn’t a weird fetishistic habit borne of the same damaged psychology that saw a woman ‘marry’ the Eiffel Tower, it’s a means of describing/slagging off a rider who refuses to do any work, who always sits behind another rider, popping out only when it matters. In the pantheon of cycling insults, wheelsucker ranks quite highly, which is odd being as it’s essentially the basis of the entire sport.
‘Wheelsucker’ carries intimations of glory snatching, but maybe people are being slightly unfair on Valverde. After sitting tight for a moment, he was the one who chased down Daniel Moreno at the finish, dragging everyone else along with him. It could be that his wheel-suckery is more apparent when he’s slightly off the pace, guarding what little energy he has left. In Liege-Bastogne-Liege he had enough to catch Moreno and then almost immediately win the sprint. He was the strongest rider. It isn’t always the case.
A second nod to Julian Alaphilippe as well. Second on Wednesday, second again on Sunday. The bridesmaid dress can wait though. Such performances at his age seem sure to herald something greater in coming years.
That’s basically it for spring classics, which means it’s time to shift to Grand Tour mode and specifically the Giro d’Italia. But before then, it’ll be interesting to see how the Tour de Yorkshire pans out. It’s not technically that big a race, but it does seem to be attracting a lot of attention. That said, it’s pitted against the Tour of Romandie, an established World Tour race which will suck up many of the best riders. The Tour de Yorkshire starts on Friday and lasts three days. The Tour of Romandie starts on Tuesday and runs until Sunday.