Alejandro Valverde hails Road World Championships triumph as ‘greatest victory’

In a four-man battle at the end of a brutal near-seven-hour race through the Austrian Alps, which included the infamous ‘Hell Climb’, Valverde narrowly held off the rest for his first world title

Lawrence Ostlere
Sunday 30 September 2018 19:46
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Alejandro Valverde celebrates his victory on the line
Alejandro Valverde celebrates his victory on the line

The Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde finally ended his long wait to become road race world champion on Sunday after edging a sprint finish in Innsbruck.

In a four-man battle at the end of a brutal near-seven-hour race through the Austrian Alps, which included the infamous ‘Hell Climb’, Valverde narrowly held off France’s Romain Bardet, who took silver, and Canada’s Michael Woods who won bronze, with Netherlands’ Tom Dumoulin few yards further back in fourth.

Valverde finished second 15 years ago in Hamilton, Canada, and in Madrid two years later, before adding four third-place finishes to his palmares but, aged 38, finally reached the top of the Road World Championships rostrum.

Alejandro Valverde showed his emotion on the podium

“This is the greatest day of my career. It means everything to me to take this victory,” said Valverde, the 2009 winner of the Vuelta a Espana. “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’m so proud of wearing this jersey for the next 12 months. I’ve been at other world championships where a teammate won and I enjoyed it, but taking it yourself is just special.”

The race was an eventful one on a gruelling course which took no prisoners. Peter Sagan, world champion for the past three years, quick the race with 90km remaining which Warren Barguil and Primoz Roglic were caught up in crashes.

Denmark’s Michael Valgren made a promising attack late into the race but when the French team reeled him in, hoping to set up Bardet for victory, it was Valverde who cleverly capitalised.

Valverde, who served a two-year doping suspension earlier in his career following the infamous Operacion Puerto, has said he will continue riding until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“There’s some time left for me before retiring,” he said. “But with such a victory, I can already leave this sport happy.”

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