Is the Vuelta still the Vuelta without Valverde?

alejandro_valverde_by_tonan111-d5ghpbf

Regular readers of this website might be aware that I have something of a fascination for Alejandro Valverde. It comes from my love of grey areas, half-truths, contradictions, and imperfections.

Even a tiny bit of research into his back-story will convince you that Valverde encapsulates all those, ahem…qualities.

He’s a wheel-sucker, an attacker, a calculating professional, a carefree racer, a loyal team-mate, a cunning backstabber, and the symbol of that overlap between the bad old days and the brave new world.

However brave, and new, that might be. If we’re honest, we don’t know for sure.

I suspect Valverde knows.

I, for one, am disappointed that he won’t be present at the Vuelta Espana this year, following the broken knee-cap sustained at the Tour de France back in July.

If I close my eyes and conjure an image of any Vuelta it involves steep Tarmac, sticky from the heat, in a sea of endlessly parched landscape, and the sight of Valverde down the lens of the head-on camera peeping out from the slipstream of another rider.

A flick of the elbow from the race leader: “Are you coming through…take your turn on the front…share the workload?”

The shake of the head from Valverde: “No…you can flick your elbow all you want, mate.”

It won’t be the same without him.

For a brief moment this week, as Real Madrid and Barcelona went head to head on the football pitch in the European Super Cup, I thought Barca had taken advantage of Valverde’s current incapacitation and installed him as their new head coach.

“Bit left field,” I thought.

But in the seething festival of politics, infighting, and bitterness that is the Real-Barcelona rivalry I began to think, “yeah…I can see that working, he’ll be right at home.”

It turned out to be a different Valverde, of course.

Shame.

I recall reading, not that long ago, that on social media stats alone Valverde is among the most popular of all pro-cyclists.

I sense there’s a north-south divide; we here in northern Europe mistrust him and judge him on past misdemeanours, whilst southern Europeans are less hung up on all that…y’know…doping ban stuff.

Or maybe that’s just the sweeping generalisation of a northern European cycling fan?

Whatever.

He might not be everyone’s cup of tea but he won’t be around for ever, the Vuelta will be poorer for his absence, and we’ll miss him when he’s gone.



(Image: via Tonan111 @ deviantart.com)

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