First, the bad news: Alejandro “Nothing Wrong” Valverde’s comeback from a two year doping suspension is a roaring success as he just nips Simon Gerrans in the sprint up Old Willunga Road.
Now the good news: while the Spaniard is tied with Gerrans on time, the final stage is a 90km criterium more suited to the GreenEdge squad of fast men. We can only hope nothing terrible or bizarre happens tomorrow to put Valverde in the final ochre jersey.
Riding his first stage race since the long suspension, Valverde was understandably pleased. “I’m super happy,” said Valverde at the stage finish. “My team has been perfect today. I couldn’t have won without them. It’s a really emotional moment for me. This win is for all those who have supported me during my time off the bike.”
Love the clever euphemism — “my time off the bike.” Other than the Spanish Cycling Federation and his old Caisse d’Epargne teammates, we’re wondering who those supporters are.
The climb up Willunga was a perfect launch pad for Valverde, who always had a fast uphill kick. The entire Movistar team worked the race to perfection with four riders punching it on the climb while Gerrans was left mostly on his own — Edge to Movistar.
There is no truth to the rumor that Valverde tried to offer Gerrans 100,000 euros to not contest the uphill sprint. He may be as unrepentant as Vino but not as “generous” in making those kinds of loans.
When we spoke with RadioShack-Nissan’s Chris Horner last month, he told us that Valverde was the best tactician he’s ever raced against. “He’s smooth an calm like a bomb,” said Horner. “That guy always impresses me.” Of course, Horner was speaking about Valverde’s race tactics, not commenting on the Spaniard’s ethics or honesty.
“The stage suited me – we put the team at the front, and to finish it off – it’s a perfect comeback for me,” said Valverde. You could question how perfect it is for professional cycling to have Valverde back but his Movistar teammates are thrilled.
“The most important thing for us is the exploit of his comeback and the emotion it brings to all of us. Alejandro will win more races this year,” said Jose Ivan Gutierrez. “He’ll have some difficult days, but he’s the best and we have a great team. We’ll give him all the strength we have.”
Valverde is the Spanish Vino. He is free to race again and there is “nothing wrong” with that. Then again, Twisted Spoke was pulling as hard as we possibly could for Simon Gerrans. We’d rather have GreenEdge, than Green Bullet.