Goes up Alejandro Valverde to the podium, where he continues crying happy, tears of joy, and over his face, already wrinkled by the years of hard work in the open air, face of a peasant, are projected the stories of all the colors that tell the cycling of now. Valverde is the present of cycling still, and also has, in his career of 17 years as a professional, the past with him. The past of all colors.
The story of Peter Sagan, for example, who was 13 years old when Valverde won his first World Cup medal and who admires Valverde, although he can not be like him because he weighs a lot, and before Innsbruck he already said that he wanted him not to he could achieve his fourth consecutive victory, Valverde the one that won in Austria, so hard for his weight. And maybe smelling it, a couple of weeks ago he told the UCI that he wanted to be the one to impose the jersey rainbow the champion of 2018. And Valverde, when he receives it from the hands of the idol of today's young people, he gets even more excited, and he continues to cry because Sagan tells him, since it's not me, what a joy it is to be you. And Valverde repeats that although he recommends it, no, he is not going to retire now from cycling.
And Sagan, the cycling of the 21st century, applauds Valverde, who represents cycling of all ages, as he was applauded a few days earlier by Johan Museeuw, Thor Hushovd, Paulo Bettini or Mario Cipollini, all of them world champions in their years, all of them rivals at the time, who say to him: "Only you deserve to win on Sunday".
Winners in the world championships. One of its twelve participations has achieved seven medals: one gold (2018), two silvers (2003, 2005) and four bronzes (2006, 2012, 2013 and 2014).
Classics. Specialist in this type of racing, Valverde has won the Liège-Bastogne-Liège four times (2006, 2008, 2015 and 2017), and the Flecha Valona in five (2006, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017). He also won in the San Sebastian Classic in two editions (2008 and 2014).
Back to Spain. It was not until his sixth participation when he managed to win the only Vuelta that looks in his curriculum (2009). Add two second places (2006 and 2012) and three third places (2003, 2013 and 2014).
Victories of stage. He climbed to the third step of the podium in the Tour (2015), and has 16 victories in big laps and 122 wins as a professional.
Valverde met the group thanks to the atavistic improvisation of Spanish cycling, a series of carambolas that made the team lose the plane to the World Cup on Thursday, when he had planned. Valverde and his companions arrived the next day and rushed to train. And they crossed paths with the club rainbow walking around the circuit. "And I already understood it as a sign that something was going to happen," says Valverde, who the next day, another sign from the sky, almost hit a cow loose in the green fields of the lost town that was concentrated the selection.
Four Spaniards have already won the World Cup, a jersey rainbow that seemed impossible until Olano got it in 1995. Then came Astarloa, in 2003, but above all Freire, three times champion (1999, 2001 and 2004), who made the jersey look like his second skin, almost like Sagan. And Freire was with everyone and enjoyed more than anyone behind the fences, and was thrilled to see Valverde, who helped him in Verona 2004 to his third triumph, dressing like him. "Valverde has done what he had to do, he ran as he had to run," says Freire. And Valverde looks at him, and almost still sobbing, he says, "how I envied you when you won the rainbow, and finally I have it, and I hope to release it at the Giro de Lombardía on October 13 ".
You can talk about prehistory, Joop Zoetemelk who won in Montello, along with Treviso, the 1986 World Cup at almost 39 years, the oldest, and Valverde's career can be a little like the Dutch, long-lived and persistent that only won the Tour de France after having climbed six times to the podium. "I dreamed of winning the Tour and the World Cup, but with the Tour I could not," says Valverde, and he remembers that his other great podium crier suffered when he finished third in the 2015 Tour.
All times pass through Valverde, who considers "a gift of life" everything he has gained after falling in the prologue of the Tour of 2017, when he broke his knee. "And then I thought that I would never run again, and look … 14 victories in a year …", he says, and many journalists remember other things, but no one tells him directly. "It's a contradictory feeling," says a Dutch colleague in private. "Valverde is a great champion and a unique cyclist, he runs like nobody, elegant, with class, it's nice to see him win. But I can not forget that I had bags of blood from Operation Puerto. "
Cycling is now the son of everything that has been, also of its black years, the most painful. Valverde, like many, was punished for two years and returned to be a cyclist and to win as before. And to become an idol. When asked then, in 2011 or 2012, he would always respond that he had paid like others, and that there was no point in continuing to remind him.
Neither the cyclists of before nor those of now remember it. Everyone applauds and admires him.