Valverde reaches the rainbow
The dream of Alejandro Valverde was fulfilled on a sunny Sunday at the end of September in Innsbruck (Austria). He won the most complicated medal, the gold medal, the one that gives the right to wear the rainbow jersey for a full season. A perfect day, with almost 7 hours on the bike, changed the story for the most complete rider of the last decades
The phenomenal work of the Spanish team in the demanding circuit of Igls advanced what would be one of the best races in the long career of the Murcian cyclist, if not the best. Always with a good face, Valverde won positions in the increasingly small group of favorites until the final entry to the terrible and fearsome ‘Holl’, the hell from where only the four strongest of the day would come out with medal option: Valverde, Bardet, Woods and Dumoulin, who reached the top three almost in the last kilometer of the race.
He knew he was the fastest but he had to control the attacks of his rivals. Valverde started from afar, superiority, and maintained his advantage until crossing the finish line in a burst of happiness. Peter Sagan, the legitimate owner of the rainbow for three seasons, gave the throne to the Spaniard on an emotional podium where rivals and teammates surrendered to the new world champion.
Statements: I can’t believe it. I just can’t. It’s been so many years fighting for it, and we finally made it. It’s my biggest pro victory. One that I’ve fought hard to achieve for all these years. Something I’ve been chasing for during my entire career. I’ve been so close, so many times, six medals yet no golds. I even thought I would never become world champion. I didn’t get obsessed about it anymore. I always went to the World Championships with an aim to do well, but knowing it was too hard to win, even more so when you’re one of the top favourites. I had almost surrendered to that fact, but it all turned out well today. I had a superb day, we reaced really well, the weather conditions helped much – and I could make that dream finally become true. I think about my family, and all those who love what I do and always support me – this goes to them, to everybody who is happy, even many rivals who came to congratulate me after the finish. This goes to all of you.
Above them all, I want to thank my Spanish national team-mates, for their outstanding job. They made me remain so calm, all of them working hard for this success. I think the training camp we held in Sierra Nevada last week helped us much. We were able to build strong bonds, become a real family, and that had an impact on the race’s events. Everyone remained really focused at all points of the race. My job was ‘just’ to be there at the right moment, seeking for the distance where I had to launch my moves, go for the sprint and win. The rest, they did it for me. I knew I couldn’t disappoint them, I had to give my all for the team.
It was a really long sprint, where I had to take on full responsibility. I kept checking my rivals’s reactions and the finishing banners until, with 350 meters to go, I thought: ‘Now! I attack and don’t wait for anyone else.’ I was looking at them from below my saddle, seeing they remained closed but not able to overtake me. After that, the emotions, the feelings, were something I won’t ever forget.
I’m so proud of wearing this jersey for the next twelve months. I’ve been at other World Championships where a team-mate won and I enjoyed it, but taking it yourself is just special. Sagan told me he was really happy about my victory – that if it wasn’t him who stayed in the rainbow jersey, he’d like me to take the baton as World Champion. There’s some time left for me before retiring, but with such a victory, I can already leave this sport happy (smiles). Everything which comes after this is a plus. Everything after the crash was already a plus. I had through my career was over at Düsseldorf. Coming back, winning 14 races, becoming World Champion – it’s a big joy.
Photo: Innsbruck-Tirol 2018 / BettiniPhoto