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Yes, Alejandro Valverde is going to retire in 2022.
Exactly when and where remains uncertain.
The Movistar veteran already sketched out a calendar for his 21st and final season of his career that includes the Giro d’Italia-Vuelta a España double. What is still undecided is what his final race will be.
“The beginning of the season is set,” Valverde said. “I’m doing the Giro and Vuelta, and it’s a beautiful calendar. Since I’m not doing the Tour, there’s enough time to prepare well for the Vuelta.”
In terms of an ideal script, a final romp across the Vuelta on home roads would be a perfect Valverde sendoff.
He’s the last of the “golden generation” in Spain that produced the likes of Alberto Contador, Óscar Freire, Carlos Sastre and Joaquim Rodríguez. The 2022 Vuelta would be a three-week-long celebration of his two-decade-long career, and serve as an emotional final adiós to his fans and admirers.
But then there are the worlds in Australia. The long demanding course sprinkled with steep climbs is, on paper, ideal for Valverde, who will turn 42 in April.
The racer inside Valverde might not be able to resist a return to the stage of his greatest triumph, when he won the 2018 world title.
“I still don’t know what my final race will be,” Valverde said. “There’s still a lot ahead of us. But if I have the legs, it would be nice to race the worlds if the team wants me. Why not?”
Alejandro Valverde: ‘I want to be remembered as a cyclist who gave everything on the bike’
Valverde was quick to insist there won’t be any second thoughts or final-hour decisions to stay in the game.
A crash in the 2021 Vuelta all but assured he’d return because he didn’t want to end his career with a crash, but he reminded everyone that the 2022 season will be his last.
“You have to end the cycle sometime,” he said. “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.
💥💙 Tráiler de la 3ª temporada de #ElDiaMenosPensado
— COPEdaleando (@Copedaleando) January 20, 2022
If he does have one wish for 2022, it’s to be able to race in front of the fans and feel the emotion on the bike. After two seasons marked by the coronavirus pandemic, Valverde wants to race the public lining the roads.
“I want to have a grateful goodbye to cycling, and to my team, for all these beautiful years, but above all, I want to have good health, and that I can race in front of the public,” Valverde said. “With that, I’d be very happy to close out my beautiful career in this sport.”
Valverde insists he’s still very much focused on the business of racing his bike, and won’t be distracted by his emotions or looking too far into the future, at least not right now.
He’s under contract to stay with Movistar, the team he joined in 2005, in some sort of role for next season, but that has yet to be decided. What’s certain is it won’t be racing the bike.
Right now, it’s all about preparing for his season debut at the Mallorca Challenge later this month.
When asked how he hoped fans would remember his career, Valverde put it succinctly.
“I want to be remembered as a great cyclist, who gave everything to this sport, and who enjoyed it all,” Valverde said. “Even more so than for the victories, I’d like the fans to remember me as a good person who always gave everything on the bike.”
2022 racing calendar for Alejandro Valverde
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana
Vuelta a Murcia
Ruta del Sol
Volta a Catalunya
GP Miguel Indurain
Ronde van Vlaanderen
Itzulia Basque Country
Amstel Gold Race
Donostia San Sebastián
Vuelta a España