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Alejandro Valverde debuts final season with a flurry

Spain's 'BalaVerde' not nostalgic yet as he kicks off 2022 with a solid debut behind winner Brandon McNulty.

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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) is racing every day as if it’s his last.

And it will be all season long for the 41-year-old, who debuted his 21st and final season Wednesday with a flash, riding to sixth behind the dramatic solo victory from Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates).

“I feel a bit strange,” Valverde told journalists Wednesday at the start of the Trofeo Calvia. “At the same time, I am happy to be here.”

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The Movistar captain is racing this week at the Mallorca Challenge ahead of an ambitious and emotional final year, dubbed the “Last Bullet” (la última bala), in what’s a play on words on his Spanish nickname, “BalaVerde,” or the Green Bullet.

“The start of the season is very special,” Valverde said. “It’s my last year as a professional, and I want to enjoy it to the maximum. I also hope I can get some results this year, here and across the rest of the calendar.”

Valverde has vowed the 2022 season will be his last, and he’s sketched out an ambitious calendar that includes the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España along with a return to the Ardennes classics.

A crash in the 2021 Vuelta all but assured he’d return because he didn’t want to end his career with an injury.

“You have to end the cycle sometime,” he said last week. “Even though I still feel good now, and I hope it stays that way this season, it’s time to move on. To keep racing doesn’t make much sense.”

Valverde’s career is full of highs and lows, from winning the biggest races on the calendar, including the world championships, a grand tour, and a monument, to being a central figure in the Operación Puerto doping scandal.

Valverde lines up again Thursday at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana.

2022 racing calendar for Alejandro Valverde

Mallorca Challenge

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana

Vuelta a Murcia

Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior

Ruta del Sol

Strade Bianche

Volta a Catalunya

GP Miguel Indurain

Ronde van Vlaanderen

Itzulia Basque Country

Amstel Gold Race

Flèche Wallonne

Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Giro d’Italia

Donostia San Sebastián

Vuelta a España