Alejandro Valverde has announced his plans to retire from racing at the end of 2021.
The news does not come as a great surprise, given the 40-year-old originally intended 2020 to be his swansong year, with one final attempt at securing an Olympic medal at the Tokyo Games.
Given Tokyo was postponed to 2021 and there was precious little racing to sink his teeth into last year, it follows that Valverde would push back his retirement plans by 12 months.
Liège - Bastogne - Liège
On This Day: Valverde wins Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2017
Valverde will not end his relationship with Movistar altogether, it seems. He is contracted to stay involved with Spain’s only WorldTeam in some fashion until 2024. Whether he stays on as a sports director, or in more of an ambassadorial role, is not yet known.
The Spaniard has raced for nearly 20 years, and spent every season since 2005 on Movistar and its previous iterations.
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#OnThisDay Valverde beats out Alaphilippe in a sprint to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege
OUR VIEW - Valverde's exit could signal the rebirth of Movistar
This will mark the end of an extraordinary era for Movistar, with Valverde the last of its notorious 'trident' of leaders to depart; after Nairo Quintana moved to Arkea-Samsic and Mikel Landa left to lead Bahrain-McLaren, both at the end of 2019. In what was a fallow period for the franchise that once won five Tours with Miguel Indurain, the trident never really delivered out on the road. Indeed, the name ‘Movistar' became something of a shorthand for disastrous tactical decisions and internecine leadership squabbles.
Two decades in this sport do not come without a bit of tarnish either – and Valverde’s retirement will mean the departure of one of cycling’s more contentious remaining figures from the ‘bad old days’, with the Spaniard serving a two-year doping ban, starting in 2010.
So while Valverde is far from an albatross around the neck of the organisation, his departure from the racing squad will mark a moment of rebirth for Movistar. The franchise can refocus its aims.
To that effect, Movistar has signed the best cyclist in the world right now in the form of Annemiek van Vleuten – a clear sign that its women’s squad is no longer an afterthought. Leah Thomas and Emma Norsgaard also join the team, adding both depth and a greater mix of nationalities to the roster.
In the men's team, Marc Soler is also beginning to deliver more and more on his early promise now he no longer has to go back and wait for Quintana and co., while Enric Mas has been a firm fixture in the top tens of Grand Tours for what feels like a decade, despite still being just 26. Ivan Cortina joins too – that rarest of things, a Spanish classicist. The team’s director Eusebio Unzue has already spoken publicly about his hopes that Cortina will be able to deliver some victories in the one-day races that have historically played second fiddle to Movistar’s Grand Tour ambitions.
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