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Valverde continues comeback with Abu Dhabi win

Alejandro Valverde's comeback from a fractured leg continued at the Abu Dhabi Tour, as he won the race's final stage and overall title.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) continued his unbelievable comeback since fracturing his kneecap in the Tour de France with the Abu Dhabi Tour’s summit stage and overall title Sunday.

Valverde, 38 this April, rode clear of his rivals and beat the remaining one, Miguel Angel López (Astana), in the sprint at the top of Jebel Hafeet. Lopez is 13 years younger than Valverde.

The rocky desert climb allowed Valverde to claim his second overall win this 2018 season after the Volta Valenciana. It is remarkable considering his age and his injury last year. A shattered kneecap, and ankle in the opening stage of the 2017 Tour de France, at the time, put the future of his career in doubt.

“Yeah, I think I’m strong like before the Tour de France,” Valverde said. “I’m in form just like before. Already in Majorca, I had good form, and in Valencia, I confirmed that with the wins. Here, I’ve shown I’m very good.”

Valverde dislodged Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), overnight leader and winner of Saturday’s time trial, with an attack six kilometers from the finish. He went again, leaving him with López and Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors).

With Alaphilippe gone, he only needed to worry about Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb). The Dutchmen began the day eight seconds ahead in the overall and kept pace in a group behind Valverde. However, with the 15-second gap at the finish line and bonus seconds, Valverde had it all: the stage and the overall.

“I had a great time trial that helped me get this overall win even if today was the main difficulty,” Valverde said. “When I began the climb, I had very good feelings. I made that first attempt, then López attacked. I saw I could go with him, and I thought that I could maybe win the stage, but he was a hard rival.

“This is important for me, for the team, [because it’s a WorldTour race]. Everything here is well run. It’s good to have this race in the Middle East. I’m happy with how I’m progressing, someone who can win around the world and I’m showing that I’m always there.”

In a career that began in 2002, the stage and overall gave him his first victories in the Middle East. The Abu Dhabi Tour began in 2015 and in 2017, became a top-class WorldTour event.

Valverde, despite his age, will lead Movistar in the Ardennes Classics and be the team’s third option along with Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa at the Tour de France in July.

“I hope that I’m there and competitive in the Ardennes Classics. Win or not, I believe I’ll be good in time,” Valverde added. “There are no secrets for me, I like racing, this is my work and my passion. The quality I have is clear.”