Valverde will turn 40 next week as he, like the rest of the peloton, sits out the spring in lockdown. The Spanish stalwart has already seen his Olympic hopes pushed back to 2021, and now he contemplates a racing year that may not happen at all.
“Looking at how all this is progressing, that it is not going well, I do not know what will happen,” Valverde said, Saturday. “Everything is very complicated, we want there to be sports, but being realistic I see very black that this year can run.”
Valverde has already made clear that he will race through to 2021 when his current contract expires. It now seems that the ageless Spaniard is contemplating going even longer if the global health situation puts a stop on racing in 2020.
“At the beginning of the confinement I did not get the idea of losing this year, but seeing how everything is progressing, I am thinking more and more about it,” Valverde told El Mundo.
“The truth is that all this supposes a drastic change, it is necessary to value all the aspects,” he said. “It may delay the withdrawal [and retirement from racing], but let’s see how all this happens and then we say.”
Valverde had been planning on sharpening his legs at the Tour de France in advance of his shot at the Tokyo Olympics. If Le Grand Boucle does go ahead, Valverde foresees a very different race to what the world may have expected at the start of the year.
“I think the Tour, Giro, and Vuelta will be very atypical races, with results very different from those of the usual dates,” he said. “The body is used to a routine and to specific temperatures. In addition, the fact of being a long period at home will influence a lot.”
Many figures inside the peloton have been calling for a period between the lifting of lockdowns and the start of racing to allow them to clock up some quality training on open roads. With quarantine conditions varying country by country, the condition of riders coming out of confinement could vary hugely. While the huge mass of pros living in Spain and Italy — including Valverde, at home in Murcia — are under strict quarantine, some, including those in Belgium and the UK, are able to train freely outside. Throw into the equation that some riders are at sea level while others are at high altitude in Colombia, or Andorra, and there could be a very uneven playing field when racing resumes.
Valverde’s experienced head isn’t leading him to panic in a bid to hold racing fitness for a season that may or may not re-start. Instead, the veteran is doing just enough to keep the engine warm, with a short indoor session in the morning and strength training in the afternoon.
“Some are doing outrageous things with training sessions of five or six hours in a row,” he said. “This does not make sense because we do not know what the closest objectives will be. The rollers burn you physically and mentally.”