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Overjoyed Valverde, 38, hints of racing into 2020

The Spaniard won his first world championship over the weekend, and he's already talking about competing at the 2020 Olympics.

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For anyone who thought Alejandro Valverde might retire following his victory Sunday in Innsbruck, they’re wrong.

The 38-year-old is pushing full steam ahead following his emotional victory in Austria and will show off his world champion’s rainbow jersey at the Giro di Lombardia, a race he’s never won but has twice finished second. Valverde already has a valid contract to stay with Movistar through the end of 2019, and he hinted at continuing his career through the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“I could end my season right now, but how could I do it after all of this?” Valverde said. “I think my retirement could be [in Tokyo]. They would be my fifth Olympics and I have a good level, I’d like to go. It’s the medal that’s missing.”

Valverde’s 15-year quest for the rainbow jersey ended Sunday in dramatic fashion. With a record six medals across his career, the stars aligned Sunday for Valverde and the Spanish team. With more than 100 pro victories, Valverde said he doesn’t want to slow down after taking what he said was the “most important victory of my career.”

“I still have a lot of hunger for success,” Valverde said. “I’ve done just about everything in cycling. Anything that comes now is a gift.”

Valverde’s victory hasn’t come without controversy. Although many in the Spanish media rarely mention his two-year racing ban as part of the Operación Puerto doping scandal in 2010, many observers in other parts of the cycling community have struggled to come to terms with Valverde’s worlds victory.

Some commentators have suggested the win is a snub to clean cycling.

The UCI gave Valverde’s victory a tacit approval by posting a Twitter message that read, “incredible finish for Alejandro Valverde.”

Valverde’s rivals also congratulated him on his long-sought victory and said Valverde’s controversial past should not take the luster off the victory.

“Valverde deserves this title,” Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet told Het Nieuwsblad. “I don’t think you should put a lot of weight to his past. He is the best rider of his generation. He is so consistent. I don’t think he’s doing that kind of stuff.”

Former rival Alberto Contador posted a message, “No one deserves this more than you.”

Valverde returned to Spain on Monday to a hero’s welcome at the Movistar corporate headquarters before traveling to another soiree in his hometown of Murcia.

“It’s incredible to achieve the title, but above all, for how it’s being enjoyed by everyone else, from my teammates, my rivals and the media,” Valverde said. “To win the gold medal at my age is incredible.”