Abu Dhabi Tour (finale) / UCI Cycling Gala
Movistar Team, Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana all receive trophies at Abu Dhabi's UCI Cycling Gala on Sunday, after successful 2015 for the whole telephone squad
Tonight's UCI Cycling Gala took the curtain down for the Movistar Team's fifth season in cycling's top tier under main sponsorship from Telefónica. 32 victories; more than hundred podium finishes; appearance in both Tour -individual and team- and Vuelta a España final podiums; wins in all Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tirreno-Adriatico, Pologne or Flèche Wallonne; or a successful UCI Hour Record attempt, round up a magnificent 2015 for the Blues.
As the final race of the year, the Abu Dhabi Tour, came to a close at the Yas Marina Circuit –with the Movistar riders also awarded the overall team prize-, the Spanish-based squad saw its efforts rewarded with three of the trophies given by the Union Cycliste Internationale in its annual event:
– 3rd consecutive triumph in the World Tour team ranking, confirmed last Sunday after Il Lombardia;
– Alejandro Valverde snatches his 4th UCI world ranking victory -two of them under its current naming and system- following one of his best seasons to date, including two victories in the Ardennes classics and a long-fought GC podium finish in the Tour;
– And Nairo Quintana ends his season as third overall, after coming just over a minute short from yellow in Paris and very close to the Vuelta podium thanks to a magnificent final week.
Alejandro Valverde (winner, individual 2015 UCI World Tour ranking): "These three years in a row winning the World Tour are something really important, which we deserved after such an impressive work from the whole team: riders, staff, sports directors… a group full of human value and bond that was able to fulfil our goals. These feats Es un logro muy difícil de conseguir y aún más de igualar o superar.
"My individual victory? It's the result of teamwork, a proof of constance, a consequence of always having great team-mates by my side, helping me out everywhere, always keeping me at the front, making sure I don't miss anything… I put my legs, my training, taking care of myself, riding harder than the others – there's no other secret than everyone's job.
"I don't know if I'm the strongest rider around, but it's true that I'm always there, in good position, performing strong. That's one of the ways to explain how I won this ranking four times – also that I like cycling, it's my passion. It's also a job, a hard sport, but passion above all. Every bit of suffering is easier to bear this way. You enjoy suffering. You're always willing to fight, even here in Abu Dhabi, where you enjoy sort of a holiday when you're not on the bike, but not really like that for me – I'm always focused on the racing, trying to help my team-mates out on the flat, and later on, giving my best in the mountains to stay close to the top guys."
Nairo Quintana (3rd, individual 2015 UCI World Tour ranking): "It makes me proud that we won the World Tour team ranking again – it's been a huge effort of all team members, not only riders but the whole staff. It's a huge recognition we've put so many efforts on during the whole season, and such insistence and regularity has led us to winning it three times in a row. Alejandro? He's been clearly the most consistent rider all season, in all races, and his success was bound to happen."
Eusebio Unzué (Movistar Team general manager): “As I said after Lombardy, this World Tour title is as well a big satisfaction as a prize for the whole structure and our sponsors, one of the biggest goals we keep in mind every season start back in November. One of our biggest strengths in recent times has been our regularity, keeping good performances coming all the way from January to October. Though it doesn't seem like that, this world ranking sadly not as recognized in our sport as in others, it's extremely difficult to stay on top against such big squads, even more so three times in a row. Preceeding Katusha, BMC, Sky… makes our triumph even more valuable. We're probably less strong when it comes to team potential and budget, but the willingness and dedication by the whole group balances the fight and makes us prevail.
"Regarding Alejandro – well, all words of praise and appreciation for everything he does and represents for this team would really be an understatement. It's the one keeping the whole team calm and confident; the man who allows Nairo progression away from any pressure; the master who brings experience and tranquility to all our youngsters, so they can grow without any hurry -Ion Izagirre's victory in Pologne; Andrey's fourth place in the Giro; Lobato on the sprints; Marc Soler and his Tour de l'Avenir-. I don't really know how things will be when he retires, but every season we start with him aboard is one you're excited about.
"It doesn't matter where you take him: World Tour or continental races, mountainous or flat – even here, at the final event of the season, he was planning on contesting a stage win whereas I wanted him to take things easy. He doesn't look to be tired, neither physically nor on a psychological point of view. Though it's taken time, the world of cycling is realizing how valuable Alejandro is for the sport: a class act, full of quality, with more than ten seasons on top of the sport. There are riders as strong as him, maybe even better on certain characteristics, but if you add his extraordinary human value, he's in advantage with pretty much everyone else – many of his biggest fans are rivals. He's irreplaceable."