Spaniard from Movistar Team -nine wins in three months after his 2018 debut- poise to continue chasing Merckx’s record after difficult ‘Doyenne’.
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A 13th spot to put everything he’s achieved in 2018 and his four brilliant victories in the race into perspective. It wasn’t the best day Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) could enjoy at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Spaniard showing his will to fight all over the 258km course yet unable to face close vigilance from his rivals + strength in numbers from QST, which won the race with Luxembourg’s Bob Jungels.
Valverde was well supported by his Movistar Team team-mates before the ‘real’ race started at the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, with Anacona, Amador and Rojas offering their best legs to the marvel from Murcia. The Colombian worked at the front of the bunch, trying to keep the gaps against the day’s early break close, while Andrey and José Joaquín put him into good position before the climbs to avoid any setbacks.
The attack by Jungels into the flat after the top of the Roche opened big gaps which prevented Valverde from contesting the victory. ‘Bala’ still tried to go forward and launch the pace into the pursuit group, though his accelerations were quickly countered by his rivals and did not lead to further collaboration inside the field. Alejandro ended up just off the day’s top-ten to close a brilliant first half of the 2018 season – just back from injury recovery – that included nine wins and two WorldTour stagerace triumphs: Abu Dhabi and Catalunya.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde:
“We left everything we had on our legs on the road today. I was suffering from cramps at the end, I don’t know if it was because of the heat and humidity today. When we were riding at a ‘normal’ pace, I was feeling good, but when I wanted to push to the limit, I just couldn’t reach the level of performance I’d have liked to. If I had been at real 100% today, I think I could have fared better than those joining me on group two – otherwise, the level was pretty close within all of us – and once I saw I really didn’t have a chance to go for a podium at the final slope in Ans, I just released the ‘gas’ and focused just on finishing. I had tried to go several times on the attack after Jungels’ move, but there were too many people following my wheel.
“I think we must remain really happy, because we gave our maximum. People must realize, looking at this year’s Ardennes results, that it’s not easy to win and win all over again. Fifth in Amstel, 2nd at the Flèche, 13th here in Liège – could it have been better? Yes, but we fought to take the win at all of them, until the very end. The first half of the season has been really good, with those nine victories, my podium in Huy – my body is already asking for some rest and I’m glad we can give it some after this race. There will be time to think about the summer next.
“Merckx’s record? Yes, it’s still at one victory’s reach, but to be honest, it wasn’t an obsession for me. It’s an important milestone, but you’ve got to give it not too much value, not too little either. We must keep in mind that the classics are always very difficult to win, and that’s why not too many people can aim to beat those records from the best rider in history.”
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net
- 01 Bob Jungels Quick Step 6h24'44"
- 02 Michael Woods EF - Drapac +37"
- 03 Romain Bardet AG2R La Mondiale "
- 13 Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team +51"
- 59 Mikel Landa Movistar Team +5'25"
- 60 Carlos Betancur Movistar Team "
- 64 José Joaquín Rojas Movistar Team +9'17"
- — Andrey Amador Movistar Team DNF
- — Winner Anacona Movistar Team DNF
- — Imanol Erviti Movistar Team DNF