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Alejandro Valverde dreams of birthday farewell at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Alejandro Valverde will be racing to tie the Eddy Merckx record at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on his 41st birthday.

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Alejandro Valverde couldn’t think of a better birthday present than to win a record-tying Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the fifth time.

Spain’s “Green Bullett” will race what likely will be his final Liège-Bastogne-Liège on what will be his 41st birthday Sunday.

“I’d love to match the [Eddy] Merckx record and win for a fifth time,” Valverde said Monday. “I’m feeling good, and if I am the starting line, that will mean I will be racing to win. Winning will be difficult, but the chance to equal Merckx’s record gives me extra motivation.”

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The peloton’s “40-something” is showing flashes of his former glory as he returns this week to his favorite hunting ground in the Belgian Ardennes.

The Movistar captain won Liège four times — in 2006 and 2008, and in 2015 and 2017 — he owns the record at Flèche Wallonne with five titles at the mid-week classic.

After finishing fifth Sunday at Amstel Gold Race, coupled with top-10s at Volta a Catalunya and the Itzulia Basque Country, Valverde’s confidence is sky-high. Victory in early April at the GP Miguel Indurain — his first win since 2019 and the first for Movistar in 2021 — confirmed he’s on top form.

“Last year I really struggled to restart after the long period of lockdown,” Valverde told VeloNews and other reporters in a video call Monday. “After a normal winter of training, I’ve been encouraged by the performances I’ve had coming into the Ardennes. The truth is I am feeling very good. These are special races for me, and I will be doubly motivated to compete.”

Valverde is the first to admit it won’t be as easy to win, especially against younger, more explosive legs of riders that are almost literally half his age.

“To be there close for the victory? Yes. To win, that’s complicated,” Valverde said. “With the type of riders in the peloton right now, I know it will be complicated for me to win. That doesn’t mean I am not going to try. When I am at the start of a race it’s with the intention of winning.”

And not for the first time, Valverde also hinted that 2021 might not be his final season.

After such a strong spring campaign, coupled with the encouraging results, Valverde said he hasn’t shut the door on possibly racing one more season.

“How many more chances to win Liège? Right now, one,” Valverde said. “But with how I am feeling, and how motivated I am finding myself, it’s something we can talk about later in the season. Right now, I am focused on these next races.”

Any decision about the future can come later in the season. Right now it’s all in for a return to the Ardennes, and a rare opportunity to race for history on his birthday.

“It would be a dream to win Liège on my birthday to match the Merckx record,” he said. “I cannot imagine receiving a better birthday present.”