The challenge of Alejandro Valverde at 40

Alejandro Valverde turns 40 in April. At that age, most athletes are retired, even starting their career as technicians or directors in the case of cycling. But he always finds challenges that excite him. This season's are the Olympic Games, a one-day race, in a demanding field and with the added difficulty of the time change and the transfer of the continent.

But its preparation does not vary too much. “The preparation is always a little altered because it is about getting a peak shape at a more marked moment. The goal is clear, but as we all know Alejandro's profile and how competitive he is since the beginning of the season it is about regulating it so that it remains at a good level but then manages to give that extra point on the date of the Games», Explains Mikel Zabala, the Movistar team coach. «The road to be traced will have to be seen depending on how you make the classic block and you will have to modify it. The planning is flexible, ”he adds.

Valverde has never neglected his physical condition, but now that the 40s appear he becomes more meticulous in the preparation. «He has always been careful, but now more than ever. Before he could have a slip and let himself gain three kilos and as he had body and energy to pull forward. But now if you gain three kilos then it weighs you. It is what allows him to be there where he is all year round, ”says Francisco Esparza, the traumatologist who reviewed his rehabilitation after the knee operation he suffered two seasons ago. “He is physically training now and is aware of his physical conditions and that if he relaxes a little, he can lose a lot with his years. He is enjoying the bicycle, ”he adds. "It goes like a motorcycle."

«With age there are people who find it difficult to maintain the weight, but in the case of Alejandro as he is so professional, he is so meticulous and takes care so much he has to say` `hey, do not demand too much '' because as he seeks excellence in everything can always go a little. '' But with him there is no problem, ”says Zabala.

He takes care of his preparation and his diet so much that he did not even allow himself an excess the day he won the World Cup. While his teammates enjoyed champagne and pizza and dinner burgers, he ate rice as if he had a career the next day and did not quite get the most anticipated victory of his career.

«Last year we had a weight problem, but it was by default, not by excess. He arrived at the Tour with a kilo less than desirable. He made a very important fund at the beginning of the season, in preseason. It was a small experiment that if it went wrong it would have its positive impact for this year. Facing the Tour, he tuned almost a little more. He arrived at the Tour justito de peso. Then he recovered a little and it was like a shot. Which is one of Alejandro's virtues. And he went to the Vuelta a España and we already saw the Vuelta he did ”, confesses Mikel Zabala.

Valverde was second in the Spanish race, competing almost until the end with Roglic. «The good thing about Alejandro is that you don't have to ask him for anything, he asks himself and there are times that goes a little help, accompaniment, gregarious luxury to an appointment and in the end it ends up removing the chestnuts from the fire. That has happened many times, ”says the Movistar coach.

Zabala finds no reason for a decline in the performance of Valverde. «I don't see why this year should be the year of change. If it is in situation, it is the first one that takes a step forward. It doesn't wrinkle, ”he says.

And the motivation of the games It is important. «It is the year that panic enters. If you were injured two years ago, you still missed the Tour, but there is another one the following year. If you get injured in the Olympic year you have to wait four years to see if you are fit and maybe you lose the only chance you had. It is a year of fear, of panic because athletes think "if I get injured, I lose my chance." And that makes you risk less, speculate more or negotiate more. But Valverde is not to speculate, if he has something tight, ”says Dr. Esparza.

To get there, Alejandro's route is almost marked. «And the Tour does not have to be a bad road for the Games. It is rather how the road is managed than the road itself», Says Mikel Zabala.


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