It’s a new season of pro cycling and once again a familiar topic rears its sweaty head: the race tactics of Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.
Once again, a rival openly questioned Valverde’s assessment of how best to race. In this case it was Spaniard Alberto Contador, who lamented that Valverde refused to ride with him in the opening stage of the Ruta del Sol,
Contador put in a blistering attack on the lower slopes of the Alto de Monachil and when Valverde bridged up, the Movistar captain was disinterested in working with Contador to open up the time gap and decide the stage victory amongst themselves.
“He had to try to play his own cards. I told him we should work together, but he did not consider that as an option,” said Contador. ” If we had done so, we could have stayed a bit calmer, and then fought out the race between us. But everybody has their own strategy.”
Like him or hate him, absolve him of his Operacion Puerto past or not, Valverde has evolved into one of the most tactically astute riders in the peloton. After many years of experience, he knows how to read a race — and that can prove irritating to his rivals.
Valverde said thanks but no thanks to Contador and watched as Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Diego Rosa and Wout Poels (Sky) joined them to contest the final victory. Showing his trademark kick, Valverde took the 99th win of his career while Contador faded to sixth.
Contador was frisky in the start to his season, attacking multiple times but it didn’t net him a victory. “I have to be pleased with what I did today,” said Contador. “It was a very hard start to the year, and I managed to put in several attacks. The team worked very well, and we were brave.”
There you have the critical distinction: do you want to be brave, give the fans a “spectacle” or do you want to win the race? Valverde was happy to play his own cards and aced the stage. Contador got to show off his brand new Trek Emoda and failed to make the podium despite all the high wattage.
The bold attackers and spontaneous aggression are part of the reason we love Contador and his racing style. Valverde on the other hand just focuses on trying to reach the top step of the podium. He’ll save his spontaneity and improvisation for opening the champagne and spraying the bubbly.