Javier Minguez, the legendary Spanish director who led Alejandro Valverde to the world title last month, said he should have won more.
“Alejandro is a more than a worthy world champion,” Minguez said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Remember, he won six medals before winning in Austria. In my opinion, he deserved many more world titles. This victory is compensation for his entire career.”
Minguez, who directed teams throughout the 1980s and 1990s in Spain, came out of retirement to take over the reins at the Spanish national team in 2013. Since then, Spain’s been knocking on the door of victory, with second and third in 2013 and third again in 2014. Valverde was third in 2013 and 2014, and fifth in 2015. He skipped Doha in 2016 and missed out with injury in 2017. The stars aligned for Spain and Valverde in Innsbruck.
“In some ways, the worlds is not that complicated of a race, but there is only one winner,” Minguez said. “More things can go wrong than right. That day in Austria, the Spanish team was a ’10,’ but it was Alejandro who had to finish it off. It was sublime.”
Minguez said the tactics for the Innsbruck course were relatively straightforward: he wanted Spain to control the race before Valverde could take over in the final lap. The team rode well to keep Valverde in perfect position to follow the attacks over the final decisive climbs. When Valverde looked around and only saw Michael Woods (Canada) and Romain Bardet (France) with him, the battle was half won. Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) bridged across, but it was Valverde’s race to win. Or lose.
“The key to the worlds is to remain patient,” Minguez said. “Alejandro is so good and so strong sometimes he moves when he doesn’t need to. Cycling is his passion but it’s also his vice. My advice to him was to race with confidence and race with patience. Everyone knew he was the man to beat. Sometimes it’s not easy to think clearly in the heat of the race, but Alejandro was impeccable.
“Everyone spoke of [Julian] Alaphilippe as the favorite, but when I saw [Wout] Poels beat him in that stage at the Tour of Britain [stage 6 up Whitlatter Pass], I thought he won’t be a big factor in the worlds,” Minguez continued. “It was Bardet who was the best in a very strong French team. The worlds puts everyone in their place.
“Alejandro is more than a worthy winner,” he said. “He finished off the race perfectly. When he saw his distance, he knew what he had to do in the final sprint. It was a lifetime of work and experience coming together. The victory was something more than beautiful. With his palmares, Alejandro is one of the best of all time.”