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Alejandro Valverde on final La Flèche Wallonne: ‘This second place tastes like victory’

The Spaniard turns 42 in five days, and nearly won his sixth edition of La Flèche Wallonne. He will be a favorite for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.

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Only a superb Dylan Teuns and the on-fire Bahrain Victorious squad could deny Alejandro Valverde of a dream “adios” at La Flèche Wallonne.

Valverde, who turns 42 on Monday, didn’t seem too disappointed in his final stampede up the Mur de Huy.

Teuns jumped, and Valverde lacked a bit of turbo to bring him back, and finished second at two seconds back to secure a podium in his final edition in the Belgian classic.

“This second place tastes like victory,” Valverde said at the line. “To come here after a very complicated Volta a Catalunya, to finish second makes me really happy. In five days, I turn 42, and this was my last race here.”

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The soon-to-be-retired Spanish star was chasing what would have been a sixth victory in La Flèche Wallonne, and his Movistar troops rode a near-perfect race to set him up for the final charge up the Mur de Huy.

Valverde knows exactly where to attack on the short but steep “wall,” but Teuns had his number Wednesday. The win was the ninth in 2022 for Bahrain-Victorious, and Teuns dashed to his 13th career victory.

Valverde, who was also second at Strade Bianche in March, was quick to tip his hat.

“I have to be happy,” he said. “I was missing a little bit, and on the final climb, my arms almost hurt more than my legs for how hard I was pulling on the last ramps. I tried to the very end, but Teuns was the strongest, no doubt about that. So congratulations to him.

“Dylan made a very good and solid attack,” Valverde said. “Maybe the climb was the fastest in race history, or at least since I’ve been doing it.”

It was another big day for Movistar, with Annemiek van Vleuten finishing second in the women’s edition.

Valverde refuses to become nostalgic in his final season, and is racing to win as he pedals into his final Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.

“There are days when you have the sensation that you could suffer a little more to achieve the victory, but today I gave everything,” he said. “I wanted to test my form, and I could sense at home I was going well, but a race is something else.

“To come here today and finish it off well despite suffering gives me a lot of hope for Liège for Sunday.”