Jen­sie looks back on Valverde’s Worlds win and an ac­tion- packed inale to a great sea­son

Procycling - - THE BIG INTERVIEW -

Well, we’ve all been wait­ing three years for a new world cham­pion. But that’s noth­ing com­pared to how long Ale­jan­dro Valverde has been wait­ing. I don’t know how many podium fin­ishes he’d had be­fore [six - Ed], but it was a lot. So when he crossed the line first in Inns­bruck, it was ob­vi­ous that he couldn’t be­lieve it had fi­nally hap­pened. There was pure joy and hap­pi­ness and even a lit­tle dis­be­lief on his face.

I am sure that’s got to be the most emo­tional vic­tory in his long ca­reer, out of more than a hun­dred wins. And it was well de­served that day. He played his cards smart, he had the sup­port of his team and he also had a lit­tle luck on his side. Those things can all be the dif­fer­ence be­tween win­ning and los­ing. But the race was won be­fore the fi­nal few hun­dred me­tres. Com­pared to the other three rid­ers in the break­away, it was clear who should win if it came to a sprint.

To me, Michael Woods was the big­gest sur­prise. He has had some solid re­sults be­fore, but get­ting a podium place at the Worlds was pretty amaz­ing to watch.

The women’s race was pretty ex­cit­ing as well, but in a dif­fer­ent way – there were such big gaps be­tween the top rid­ers. It was an epic bat­tle by all the women who fin­ished the race. And that about half of the pelo­ton did not fin­ish shows that it was a hard race all day. The pelo­ton, or what was left of it, fin­ished over eight min­utes be­hind the su­perb win­ner, Anna van der Breggen, who took the ti­tle with an im­pres­sive solo.

And the last big ren­dezvous of the sea­son for the men was the Giro di Lom­bar­dia or “Il Lom­bar­dia” as we call it now. The de­fend­ing cham­pion, Vin­cenzo Nibali, was just get­ting back in the right shape af­ter the ter­ri­ble crash he had dur­ing the Tour de France, where he suf­fered a bro­ken ver­te­bra. He wanted to re­peat his 2017 vic­tory and came oh so close, but was beaten by the French rider Thibaut Pinot who took his big­gest ever win. He was smart enough to fol­low Nibali’s wheel when he went,

"It was ob­vi­ous that he couldn’t be­lieve it had in­ally hap­pened. There was pure joy and hap­pi­ness and even a lit­tle dis­be­lief on his face"

and he was able to drop Nibali and solo 14km to win one of the hard­est one­day clas­sics in style. Nibali saved a very good sec­ond place to fin­ish his sea­son with a lit­tle high­light and in a promis­ing way for the next sea­son. And don’t for­get, he didn’t win here, and his Tour was ob­vi­ously dis­ap­point­ing, but he still won Mi­lan-San Remo this year in bril­liant style.

With Ro­main Bardet com­ing sec­ond at the Worlds and Thibaut Pinot win­ning the last big one-day Clas­sic of the year, the French showed us once more to never count them out. They’ve had a pretty good cam­paign, and in all kinds of races – stage races and one-days.

It was a lit­tle more of a quiet month on the British side of cy­cling, but hey, af­ter win­ning all three big tours with a dif­fer­ent rider in the same year there is no rea­son to com­plain, right?! British cy­cling must have had one of their best years in his­tory and there is no rea­son to ex­pect any­thing less for next year. 2018 is al­most done, and I can’t wait for the next sea­son al­ready.

Jens Voigt re­tired in 2014 fol­low­ing an 18-year ca­reer as one of the sport's most loved and at­tack­ing rid­ers. He held the Hour Record for 42 days. Com­men­ta­tors never did agree how to pro­nounce his name.

Jens could see all kinds of emo­tions on Valverde's face when he won the Worlds

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