Alejandro Valverde clocked up his 10th victory of 2018 when he emerged first from the mist atop Les Monts d’Olmes to claim stage 3 of the Route d’Occitanie, but the Spaniard downplayed his prospects of leading Movistar’s Tour de France challenge next month.
Valverde is set to line up alongside Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana in a star-studded Tour selection, but despite his remarkable form, the 38-year-old suggested that his role in that triumvirate would primarily be a supporting one.
“We’ll go there with other objectives since we’re going to be working for Landa and Nairo,” Valverde told Directvelo.com when asked if he could win the 2018 Tour.
Valverde’s best displays at the Tour have come in the period since he served a ban following his implication in the Operacion Puerto blood doping inquiry. He placed third overall in 2015, 4th in in 2014 and rode strongly in the service of Quintana two years ago while helping himself to 6th place in Paris. A year ago, Valverde’s Tour ended prematurely when he crashed out during the opening time trial in Dusseldorf.
That incident left Valverde with a fractured kneecap, but he returned to action at the start of the 2018 season and was immediately back to his best, winning a stage and the overall at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. He proceeded to rack up nine wins during the Spring, though he was denied a fifth successive Flèche Wallonne triumph by Julian Alaphilippe and then could only manage 13th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Valverde had not raced since the Ardennes Classics as he throttled back in preparation for the Tour, and his performance on the queen stage of the Tour d’Occitanie – formerly the Route du Sud – indicated that he will be a force to be reckoned with at the Tour next month.
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