Backspin: '30 is the new black’ — Philippe Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde and Michele Scarponi
Veteran cyclists are headlining 2017 as Philippe Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde and Michele Scarponi top Eurosport’s week that was…
Sure, of the four mentioned above, Sagan has had more than a modicum of success to start the year with a win at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and two stage wins – and a points jersey – at Tirreno-Adriatico, but it’s been the seemingly ageless 30-year-olds who have taken the sport by storm early this season.
Most notably, Belgians Greg van Avermaet, 31, and Philippe Gilbert, 34.
“It was a victory based on confidence, strength and a great team supporting me all the way,” said Valverde. “I had lots of respect to what my rivals could do, but also knew that I was in great physical condition, and I had to take advantage from it.
" We knew it would still be difficult to win there, because only one can achieve it and many fight for it, but to be honest, this feels like a race made for me."
"Liège? We'll see how we feel on Sunday,” Valverde said. “It's a race that I really like a lot and won three times. I'm in great shape at the moment, but as always, enjoying this win comes first and thinking about what's next comes after that.”
Gilbert confident of further results following recovery
While the 2012 UCI world road race champion is without question having his best run in five years, a tear to his right kidney following a crash at Amstel Gold prior to his win, forced Gilbert to withdraw from the final two Ardennes Classics.
"When I crashed, I felt pain, but once I remounted and continued the race things became better and better and the pain disappeared,” said Gilbert ahead of the Flèche Wallonne. “Unfortunately, after the finish, the lower back pain returned, so together with the team doctor I decided to go to the hospital for a check-up.
“Fortunately, it's nothing serious, and if everything goes well, in a week I will start training again.”
Gilbert remained in the hospital under observation for 24 hours before being discharged.
"It's one of my best years and looking behind on what I achieved makes me very happy,” he stated. “To be competitive in both the cobbled and the Ardennes Classics and to help the team be the best in the world brings me a lot of satisfaction.
“It's sad I won't be there for the remaining races of this week, because I was in great condition, but our squad is a strong one and I'm confident other good results will follow.”
Scarponi gives Astana hope following Aru’s Giro withdrawal
While a follow-up exam on April 18 and subsequent ride the day after have shown remarkable improvements and decreased inflammation in his left knee, pain still exists and as previously reported the team reaffirmed on Thursday that the 26-year-old Italian will not take part in the Giro.
“We had to change our plans after Aru's injury during a training in Sierra Nevada, so now I'm here speaking about what we have to do at the Tour of the Alps and the Giro d’Italia,” said Scarponi. “The answer is: we'll try to do our best, because we worked a lot to achieve good results here and at the Giro.”
"It’s my first ever victory for Astana, and the first in the season for the team too,” said Scarponi. “We have been racing well lately, but for some reason the win kept eluding us. So this win is very good also for the team’s morale."
Tour of the Alps (2.HC), April 17-21
La Flèche Wallonne (1.UWT), April 19
La Flèche Wallonne Feminine (1.WWT), April 19
Liège-Bastogne-Liège (1.UWT), April 23
Tour de Romandie (2.UWT), April 25-30
Tour de Yorkshire (2.1), April 28-30
Women’s Tour de Yorkshire (1.1), April 29