Valverde ready to pounce in hilly Ardennes classics

The Spaniard wants to add to his classics win total and make up for a third at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year

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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is ready to make up for disappointment last year across the Ardennes with a winning ride in at least one of the hilly classics.

Which one? He doesn’t care. Already a winner of one Flèche Wallonne (2006) and two Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2006, 2008), the veteran Spaniard is motivated to make up for third in last year’s Liège, when a mechanical problem in the final attack kept him from shifting gears and opening up his sprint.

“As I’m feeling now, the only goal is winning,” Valverde said in a team release. “We know it’s much easier said than done. I was running well last year, and I was always in the front, but I couldn’t win any of the three.”

Last year, Valverde was solid across the Ardennes, riding to second behind the unstoppable Roma Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) at Amstel Gold, seventh at Flèche, and third at Liège behind Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp).

Always a consistent performer in the hilly classics,Valverde is on good form, and will be a five-star favorite across Ardennes week, which begins Sunday with Amstel Gold Race.

Valverde already has seven wins on the 2014 season, including Roma Maxima and GP Indurain. He skipped racing the Volta a Catalunya to race across the cobblestones at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke to get a taste of what awaits in this summer’s Tour de France.

At the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) earlier this month, he was out-gunned by eventual winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), scoring three second places in stages, but falling off the final podium after bleeding too much time in the final time trial to finish fifth.

Contador is skipping the Ardennes after his highly successful spring campaign, meaning Valverde, and steady Ardennes performer Joaquin Rodríguez (Katusha) will be the top Spanish riders for the upcoming classics.

Backing up Valverde will be a solid Movistar team, including Beñat Intxausti, John Gadret, Imanol Erviti, and Iván Gutiérrez.

“I always get asked which one I would like to win if I could choose just one, but I won’t do that because I like all three,” Valverde said. “It’s true that Amstel is the one that resisted me so far, I’ve been second and third there, but I still love Liège. I will give 100 percent in all three.”