Valverde: “I’m feeling as excited and fit as when I was 22”

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) opened his 2016 account in the most impressive way by riding to an amazing solo win at the top of the Alto Peñas Blancas on the final day of the Vuelta a Andalucia.

“It’s the most exciting victory of the four I’ve got here,” Valverde said. “It’s true that the previous three were also beautiful, but I was feeling like this one was going away from my hands day by day.

It was looking harder than ever after yesterday’s time trial. But I managed to do it, which made it a very satisfying win altogether. I felt good all the way during the stage, so I decided to try from quite a way out. That was good for both the day’s win and the overall. I saw the rest were not looking particularly strong, and I knew that if I wanted to win it overall, I had no choice but to make a long-distance attack.

I felt comfortable all stage today, despite the route being so demanding – which also was for me. The team was also doing well and wanted to try to move the race, and we profited from several other teams who wished to go on the attack to make a fast race so we could get a chance to leave van Garderen behind on the last climb.

We launched several of our guys into the early moves, with Rubén in a more serious break and Dani in the finale, and when I saw the others struggling a bit halfway through the last Peña Blancas, I knew that I had to go on a long attack if I wanted to win the GC.

Three years ago in the Vuelta I suffered more than today even if I did worse than today. I knew the climb, went again to look at it this week before the race, and knew how to tackle it. I always had time references from the team car against my rivals during the attack, and wasn’t comfortable with that gap, so I just kept going and going on full steam until the finishing line.

I knew I was well, but didn’t feel I could gain so much space today. I was a bit lucky, also due to the fact that they changed the route just before the race to add that second ascent of Peñas Blancas – it granted me a bigger chance.

I knew I was going well, but not as well as this! I trained well over the winter; with good weather in Murcia, doing otherwise would be difficult. However, I saw other teams doing strong, those coming to train and race in Spain, the ones who started their seasons in Australia or Argentina… it really seems like the peloton has stepped up their game a bit compared to previous seasons in the early part of the year.

Fortunately, and despite being close to turning 36, I’m feeling as excited and fit as when I was 22, even more so today – being able to stay with the top guys in the peloton makes me really happy.

This victory is a tribute to many people. The main one is Adriano Malori: you all know he’s still recovering after his crash in Argentina, and I want to wish him the best. Also the team: they all did fantastically well. The fans: both in Andalucía and in the rest of Spain, they are spectacular and treat me really well. Also, my family, the kids, all the people who support me.

My next goals? We’ll be heading to Strade Bianche in two weeks, then Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo and then, the Northern classics, Harelbeke and Flanders above all.”