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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) angrily defended his fourth-place finish in the Tour de France, saying armchair critics don’t have the right to question his performance.
Valverde has come under fire in Spain for “blowing” his best and perhaps last chance at the Tour podium, finishing fourth behind winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and two French riders, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr).
Speaking on the Spanish sports radio chat show, “El Larguero,” Valverde angrily shot back at critics.
“You can accept the critics, but there are people who think that everything is easy, that everything comes easy, but that’s not all,” Valverde said. “A lot of these critics have not ever ridden a bike, let alone raced … They have no idea.”
The 34-year-old Spaniard was poised to finish on the final Tour podium, riding out of the Alps sitting second overall. With the abandonment of pre-race favorites Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Sky), Valverde, backed by the powerful and experienced Movistar team, was looking good for a first-ever podium.
Valverde was wildly inconsistent, however, dropping Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) over the Port de Bales climb in stage 16 before losing time to Peraud and Pinot up Hautacam during stage 18. Despite starting 15 seconds out of second place in the final time trial, Valverde could not post a strong ride and settled into fourth.
“We were in the Tour, we fought for the podium right until the final stage — so you didn’t reach it? — but we were as close as you can be, and everyone gave everything they had, so we have to be content,” Valverde said. “Everyone has a right to think what they want, but you have to be here at the Tour, and finish fourth … I am not mad, I am just saying things the way they are.
“I wanted to be there, but in the end, I just couldn’t do it,” Valverde continued. “I don’t know why. Maybe it was the pressure of having [the podium] so close. That’s rare for me, because I am used to the pressure, but the Tour is the Tour … and maybe the pressure cost me a little bit. I was confident to reach the podium, but in the end it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Valverde admitted he doesn’t know what his future holds. According to sources, Valverde still has not re-upped with Movistar for next season. Valverde reportedly was waiting to see what happened with the team backed by Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, but that project looks dead in the water.
With Giro d’Italia winner and last year’s runner-up Nairo Quintana waiting in the wings, Valverde said he’s a “realist.”
“Was it my last chance? I don’t know. Look at Peraud, he’s 37, and he ends up second. I am not going to obsess about it,” Valverde said. “I know that Nairo is coming up very strong. Above all, I am a realist, and we all know that he’s going to be stronger than me, and that’s it.”