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Valverde earns top WorldTour ranking

Movistar captain takes command of WorldTour standings after strong week at Paris-Nice

It did not take long for Alejandro Valverde to return to the top of the world rankings.

The Movistar rider, back in the peloton following his controversial two-year ban for links to the Operación Puerto blood doping ring, leads the latest WorldTour rankings.

Thanks to his stage victory and third-place podium spot at Paris-Nice, Valverde takes the top spot in the ranking with 167 points. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), who won Sunday’s final stage to clinch the Paris-Nice title, slots into second with 112 points and Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge), winner at the Tour Down Under, settles into third with 110 points.

“I want to thank the entire team because they were great all week,” Valverde said in a Movistar release. “The (Paris-Nice) podium is for them as well as the No. 1 ranking in the WorldTour, which really makes me happy, because without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.”

Valverde enjoyed a solid week at Paris-Nice, his second major stage race (he won a stage at January’s Tour Down Under) since winning — and later being disqualified — the 2010 Tour de Romandie.

He won a stage, claimed the green points jersey and defended his third-place with a strong, sixth-fastest time up the climbing time trial on Col d’Èze on Sunday.

“The objective to come here was to win a stage and we did it,” he said. “I already said that anything else that would come would be a bonus and the podium is just that. I am very happy with third place. Even though I was always at the front, I couldn’t manage to win Paris-Nice, but the most important thing is that I am there, fighting with the best in the best races.

“I knew I had little chance to recover ground on Wiggins and [Lieuwe] Westra, because they were very strong and the time trial favored them more than me,” he continued. “Despite all that, I had good sensations and I knew I would set a good time.”

Valverde will skip this weekend’s Milan-San Remo, racing instead at the Volta a Catalunya in Spain in preparation for the Ardennes classics next month, his first major goal of the 2012 season.