Yes, Alejandro Valverde has ‘officially’ retired. Yes, there were a whole bunch of retirement tributes at the final races of his career that would be awkward to row back from now. Yes, he finished his last season as a top 10-ranked rider. Yes, in Japan he was saying he is definitely, definitely retiring. But is he?
Speaking to AS at the recent Saitama Tour de France criterium in Japan, in between making himself candy floss, Valverde revealed some further details of what he’ll be doing next year as he moves into a backroom role at Movistar.
“Even though I’ve spent so many years competing, what’s coming now doesn’t give me respect. When the season starts it will be strange, that’s for sure, but I will continue to be linked to the world,” the Spaniard admitted.
“My main task will be that there is more communication between directors, coaches and riders. I will be in the car at some races. For example, the idea is to be among others at the Giro, Tour, Vuelta… but not in full. Five or six days, something like that. I will continue to be seen at the races.”
As well as working as support staff at Movistar, Valverde wants to be amongst the latest WorldTour retirees to dip his toes into the pool of gravel racing. Moreover, the 42-year-old also confirmed he will sometimes go to altitude camps and train with his former teammates.
“It’s the thought,” Valverde said of his planned participation in the intense preparation riders go through before key races. “I don’t know if for example [I will do it for] the three weeks they are [there], but ten days or something like that. It will be without competing, that’s for sure.
“Yes, I would like to be in gravel racing and things like that, although I still haven’t taken a good look at it. It will be to have a sporting goal and have fun, which for me is the same. Maybe, without so much insistence or discipline, but my training mornings are not going to be touched.”
His teammate Enric Mas, ever more the main man at Movistar, says having Valverde there at his age will push the rest of them on to do better with their relative youth.
“That at almost 43 years old he is there with and we know what it is like to train with him, that he will go to the maximum,” Mas said. “For the youngsters he is a motivational extra.”
Of course, all retiring riders know it will be strange going into a new season without the prospect of a full smorgasbord of racing to look forward to. However, both with a loosely defined role placed in between the sports directors and riders and with a continued desire to attend training camps as a participant while no longer racing full-time, it reeks of the man in his forties still not being done with top-level racing.
And who can blame him, really. Still a top-10 ranked rider in a team where his ability dominates the rest of the squad. Enric Mas finished the season well but it will take a few more results for everyone to forget about Alejandro Valverde.
Say the first few months of 2023 go poorly for Movistar, with few victories to speak of. With the Netflix cameras rolling, who wants to bet against Valverde pinning a number on once more for something like the Ardennes Classics? With all of the training he’s still planning on doing he’ll likely maintain his legs and race weight, piling on the pain for the riders at training camps and being able to mix it up in the peloton. I think at the very least it’s worth putting this note on the record in the not-so-slim eventuality Valverde decides he wants to be the new Davide Rebellin as he races towards getting his free bus pass.