New world champion Alejandro Valverde says he plans to continue competing until the 2020 Olympics.
The Spaniard outsprinted France’s Romain Bardet, Canada’s Michael Woods and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin to claim the Rainbow Jersey on Sunday and crown another brilliant year that has also included winning the Volta a Catalunya and the Abu Dhabi Tour, as well as a podium at La Fleche Wallonne.
At 38, he is well into the twilight years of his career but the 2009 Vuelta a Espana winner still appears as determined as ever.
Team leadership in Grand Tours was previously Valverde’s main motivation but he has shown his class as a super domestique in recent years.
After a fifth in last month’s Vuelta, El Bala, or ‘The Bullet’, was well fancied heading to Innsbruck and proved his form with a late dash for the line.
In doing so he became the sixth Spaniard to don the Rainbow Jersey and will now have the pleasure of racing in it until the 2019 World Championships in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
Valverde had six previous podiums at the Worlds and admits finally winning the title is the fulfilment of a long-held ambition.
However, the veteran still feels he can compete, with Olympic gold in Tokyo now a major goal.
“I can retire happy now,” Valverde told Spanish newspaper Marca. “But I’ll keep going until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”