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Valverde already has eyes on Olympics following Lombardia near-miss

Spaniard laments missed chance at Italian monument but is already setting his sights on the gold medal in 2020.

There’s no slowing down for Alejandro Valverde.

After missing out on victory at the Giro di Lombardia, the 39-year-old is already looking ahead to 2020.

Just moments after crossing the line second to Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), the sometimes controversial Spaniard is already setting his sights on the Olympic gold medal.

“We have a big objective next season, and that’s the Olympics in Japan,” Valverde said. “It’s a route that favors me, so we’ll see what happens.”

Valverde ended his rainbow jersey season Saturday not quite with the bang he was hoping for.

After riding to second overall at the Vuelta a España, the Movistar captain had high hopes both for his world title defense and Lombardia, the Italian monument that’s eluded him in the past. Cold and rain forced him to abandon the worlds for the first time in his career in late September.

He rebounded strongly for the fall classics, but fell short of victory Saturday at Lombardia despite a steady end-of-season run across northern Italy. In five starts, he was second in three of the one-days that close out the European calendar. Valverde was one of the big favorites in Como, but Mollema beat him to the punch.

“When he attacked, we all looked at each other,” Valverde said. “I tried later, but it was already too late. There was a lot of control behind, and that’s when a rider with a lot of strength can arrive to the line. Hats off to him – he’s a worthy winner.”

Valverde said he was content with how ended his rainbow jersey season. In 2019, he brought home five victories, including the Spanish national title — he debuted the jersey last week in Italy after racing in the rainbow stripes all summer — as well as a stage win at the Vuelta en route to second overall.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose — that’s sport,” he said. “I’m satisfied with second place, but knowing I had the legs to win, I leave with a bitter taste. This is an important race, a monument, and I love it, and that’s why I have this feeling.”

Valverde now takes a break before heading into next season. His racing season is over, and next year he will be an essential piece of a new-look Movistar. With headliners Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Richard Carapaz all leaving, the team will be leaning on Valverde even more. New recruit Enric Mas as well as promising in-house talent Marc Soler will see their chances in the grand tours.

Valverde has already let it be known that the Olympic Games will be the center of his season ambitions, along with the traditional targets in the spring classics. Though he hasn’t finalized his 2020 calendar yet, he is showing no signs of slowing down.

“When I was younger, I was saying I would retire by the time I was 34,” he said. “Now I am 39 — 40 next year — but I’m still here, and maybe for a bit longer still.”

Indeed, Valverde already has a contract extension through the 2021 season. If things don’t go well in Tokyo, the next Olympic Games, set for Paris in 2024, might not seem too far off.