Victory in Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege - on both occasions over plucky French youngster Julian Alaphilippe - earned veteran Valverde his second Ardennes double in seven years.

His triumphs sandwiched either side of his 35th birthday, Valverde became only the second rider in history to pull off a double double of Fleche and Liege wins.

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Crazily, this cycling blogger missed it all completely.

Having seen the 'Green Bullet' narrowly miss the target in the previous weekend's Amstel Gold - the only Ardennes classic missing from Valverde's CV despite three podium finishes - yours truly had to nip over to the French Alps for his prospective brother-in-law's stag weekend in Chamonix.

A suitably raucous affair with 17 thirty-something chaps crammed into one chalet drinking the bar dry in between bouts of snow sport action on the piste also saw us making the most of an outdoor jacuzzi.

It must have been some kind of hot tub time machine. Because shortly after we emerged from the bubbling waters, news trickled through that Valverde had blasted up the Mur de Huy quicker than anyone else.

Then, days later and drying ourselves off from another session in the hot tub, Valverde's latest victory in Ans filtered through on the wireless (after all Twitter didn't exist back in 2006). It was a turning back of time that gave John Cusack, Marty McFly and Doc Brown a run for their money. Or was it?

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After all, Alejandro Valverde has always been one of the peloton's most consistent riders. As regular as a prune laced with laxatives in a dodgy bowl of chilli. Such a whiffy analogy rings true to those critics who feel it stinks that the Movistar all-rounder is still allowed to cycle professionally - let alone deny an untarnished 22-year-old Frenchman from the new generation a place on the top rung of the podium.

"Valverde should be out of the sport as he doped and denied it, he is as unrepentant as you can possibly get and dragged us along on a ride with his lawyers that made a mockery of the sport. There was no change in him, no acceptance of the damage he did, nothing."

So says Lee Rogers, a cycling coach, freelance journalist and former pro on the UCA Asia Tour. Still racing MTB professionally around the world, Rogers has beef with Valverde not as much for his alleged doping past but for the Spaniard's staunchly unrepentant streak since being retrospectively felled by Operacion Puerto in 2010.

But it's worth adding that man of the moment Valverde has always shown the kind of consistency absent from most riders with a tarnished past - not so much peaking for one of two major events each year, but regularly hitting the heights from early in the spring right through to the World Championships.

There are few troughs in a typical Valverde season - just a series of peaks and plateaux.

His Ardennes doubles have come both before and after his ban; his eight one-day wins are also split down the middle; he may not have won a Grand Tour since his Vuelta scalp in 2009, but he's finished on the podium in Spain for the past three years and picked up post-ban stage wins in both the Tour and Vuelta.

And clogging up his palmares throughout his career - like re-runs of Top Gear on Dave - are Valverde's record-breaking (but ultimately Midas-lite) five world championship podium finishes (even more close-but-no-cigarly as his alchemy-shy Amstel Gold haul).

So quibble as much as you like, but Valverde is Mr Reliable when it comes to getting results. In fantasy football terms, he's the equivalent of former Leeds defender Ian Harte, supplementing a regular return of clean sheets with penalties and free-kicks aplenty.

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Twice the WorldTour's top rider prior to his ban, Valverde was back on top of the peloton's summit last season after what he described himself as the "most successful" year of his career. After two wins and a runner-up spot in eight days, he's leapfrogged Richie Porte at the top of the standings and still has two Grand Tours on the horizon.

This year we have seen a changing of the guard in the classics, with injured usual suspects Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara - both, incidentally, younger than Valverde - eclipsed by the sprightly likes of John Degenkolb (26) and Alexander Kristoff (27).

World champion Michael Kwiatkowski (24) continued that run for the new generation with victory in Amstel Gold before Valverde bucked the trend with his back-to-back victories.

"It's just unreal. I couldn't believe myself when I crossed the line," said Valverde, who praised tyro Alaphilippe (who, despite ostensibly riding in support of Etixx-QuickStep Kwiatkowski, out-performed the rainbow jersey and proved the Spaniard's biggest rival in both the Fleche and Liege, almost becoming France's first winner of a monument in 18 years).

"In the end, more than cycling changing, it's the generation that has changed," said Valverde after the third career win in 'La Doyenne'. "In 2006 it was (Paolo) Bettini, Andy Schleck, (Damiano) Cunego and other riders, now it's (Julian) Alaphilippe, and Purito (Joaquim Rodriguez) who's still there."

Which of his three victories in Ans does Valverde hold most dear?

"All three have been beautiful. Winning in Liege is always phenomenal - but today's is even more special after such a complete week: second in Amstel, winner in Fleche and now winner in Liege. It makes me even happier taking the victory here because of that - doing it in a monument of cycling and claiming a third one to enter history."

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And what is the secret of Valverde's ability to seemingly mature with age, like a fine wine (albeit one that many people would still prefer poured down the sink on the basis of it being corked)?

"I gained strength and confidence through the last few years," Valverde admitted. "And when you're calm and believe in your chances, everything becomes easier. I think this win is a result of that, too."

Before leaving Chamonix there was just enough time for another dip in the jacuzzi. This time it was followed by a Tour of Turkey stage win by another one of the peloton's divisive old guard, Davide Rebellin - mimicking, perhaps, the apparently godawful sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine.

Old enough to be Chris Horner's slightly more mature twin brother, 43-year-old Rebellin achieved something in his earlier career that even Valverde has yet to manage: an Amstel-Fleche-Liege hat-trick in 2004 (four years before testing positive for CERA during the 2008 Olympics).

Now riding for CCC Sprandi Polkowice, unrepentant Rebellin has his heart set on riding the Giro later this month. But unlike Valverde, the Italian's record in Grand Tours is up there with the driving ability of a Shimano neutral service car: Rebellin has only finished two of 12 Grand Tours he has entered - and none since 2001.

In short: Rebellin is one of those aforementioned former dopers who specialises in peaking for specific events. Evergreen Valverde, on the other hand, is a durable Duracell Bunny (although he won't admit it). Only a brave man would bet against the Movistar veteran finishing the season once again on the top of the pack.

Felix Lowe - external@saddleblazehttps://twitter.com/saddleblazeNone

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