Valverde defends bronze-medal performance at world championships

Valverde defends Spain's 2-3 finish in the road race at this year's world championships in Florence

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MADRID (VN) — Perhaps no one caught as much flack in 2013 as Alejandro Valverde.

Moments after his teammate Rui Costa steamrolled Joaquim Rodríguez in Florence, everyone was pointing their finger at Valverde as the culprit for Spain’s world championship face plant.

Even Spain’s national team coach publicly vented that if Valverde had followed Costa’s late surge with about 2 kilometers to go, Spain would have come up golden.

Instead, Spain settled for second and third, and Valverde has been catching grief ever since.

“It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and make opinions,” Valverde told VeloNews. “The worlds is a very complicated race. To be second and third, I don’t think that’s so bad.”

When asked to reflect on the worlds, Valverde said he’s not losing any sleep when he recalls the final kilometers of the road race in Florence.

“No, not at all,” he countered. “Lost? Well, maybe so, but there were a lot more who lost everything. We had two on the podium. I am content with what happened.”

As far as Valverde is concerned, walking away with two worlds medals was a solid showing.

With his bronze, Valverde also made cycling history by becoming the first elite male to have won five road world championship medals.

Over the past decade, Valverde has been the most consistent worlds performer, landing on the podium five times since 2003.

In Hamilton in 2003, he was second to compatriot Igor Astarloa. He was second again to Tom Boonen in Madrid in 2005, and third the following year in Salzburg behind Paolo Bettini and Erik Zabel.

Since returning from his two-year racing ban for links to the Operación Puerto doping scandal, he was third in 2012 in Valkenburg behind Philippe Gilbert and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Despite being the center of controversy in more than one occasion over tactics — Oscar Freire blasted Valverde last year in Valkenburg for riding his own race — Valverde said he is proud of his worlds record.

“I am the only one in the history of cycling who has five world championship medals,” he continued. “Three thirds, and two seconds; that’s pretty good.”

Would he melt all those down for one gold?

“Well, maybe, but in the end, those five are mine. And I’m part of history,” he said. “So I don’t know, but of course, I’d like to win the worlds. That’s the ultimate goal. I hope there are still a few chances to come.”

For 2014, Valverde will likely get that chance to chase gold as Spain hosts the world championships in Ponferrada on a relatively straightforward circuit that includes quite a bit of vertical.

The Tour de France will remain his central focus, but the Vuelta a España and the worlds are important late-season goals for the Movistar captain.

“I haven’t seen the course yet, but from what I hear there’s a lot of climbing,” he said. “This year’s route in Florence was more technical, but from what I understand, there is more climbing in the Ponferrada worlds.”

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