Alejandro Valverde is downplaying his chances for the rainbow jersey Sunday on a Richmond circuit he said is not ideal for his style of racing.
The Spanish captain was quick to add, however, that the prospect of rain could permanently alter the outcome of the elite men’s road race, perhaps in his favor.
“I don’t know if it’s ideal for me,” Valverde said Friday. “[The circuit] is hard, but it will also be complicated. What’s certain is the circuit is not the best for me. Being attentive will be key, and we will give everything.”
Valverde, 34, already owns a record six world championship medals, but he’s never won the rainbow jersey. The pressure will be on for Spain to deliver its first world title since Oscar Freire won the last of his three in 2004.
Valverde has had an excellent season, capped by third overall at the Tour de France — his first career podium at the Grande Boucle. He also took big wins in the Ardennes classics. He’s on track to win another WorldTour individual season ranking, and he knows that there is only one blank space on his otherwise stellar palmares.
“I reached the podium at the Tour, now the only thing that remains is the gold medal at the worlds,” Valverde said.
Richmond’s 16.2km circuit, packed with corners, cobblestones, and short climbs, is being compared by many to Flanders-style racing. After inspecting the circuit, Valverde, who typically shines on races punctuated with more climbs, admits it’s not to his liking.
“We’ll have to see how the race develops, if the group is broken up or not. The less people in the group, the better it is for me,” he said. “There are plenty of rivals; Gerrans, Van Avermaet, Gilbert, Nibali, the Yates brothers, Rui Costa … .”
Spain brings a strong, nine-man squad to Richmond, with Joaquim Rodríguez, second in 2013, playing a joker role, and Juanjo Lobato, making his worlds debut, in reserve if the race comes down to a bunch sprint.
Valverde said the prospect of rain could permanently alter the race, perhaps tipping it to his favor.
“Rain is never good, because there are more risks, and the circuit is full of cobbles, and curves,” he said. “It can be a completely different worlds if it rains. If it does, it will be very, very hard.”
Typically for Valverde, the harder, the better.