"Anything that you threw at him, he could handle" - Unzué and Movistar look back on partnership with Alejandro Valverde

After large and successful years with Movistar Team, Alejandro Valverde has retired from the pro peloton. The Spanish team had him as a leader for over a decade, and Euzébio Unzué, team manager, has several fond memories and good words about the Murcia native.

“He came through from the junior category up to being an amateur with us,” Unzué told Cyclingnews. “But coming up from Murcia every weekend was tough on him, particularly back when roads in Spain were much worse than they are now. Kelme also offered him the possibility of a pro contract two years later than we could. So they got him.”

Valverde turned pro in 2002, and only in 2022 did he leave pro cycling. He developed into an incredibly versatile rider, as Unzué recalls: “That’s what stood out about him throughout and that was what mattered.You asked about his sprinting. Well, I can remember seeing him beat a guy as fast as Alessandro Petacchi in the Vuelta a Valencia.”

“But it turned he was as good or better at one-day Classics, week-long races, three-week stage races, wins here, podiums there. Anything that you threw at him, he could handle," he continues. This versatility has seen him wins the 2009 Vuelta a Espana, 2018 World Championships, 4 Liège-Bastogne-Liège editions and a palmarès that has over 130 wins, and hundreds of other top results in the most competitive races in the calendar. He is a rider that marked several generations, his versatility and consistency seeing him take countless high-level wins.

“On top of that, he was a rider who always had exceptionally good form, all the way from April through to October. You just need to look at how he’s just finished his career to see that," Unzué continued, pointing out another factor that separated him. Valverde has additionally finished on the podium of the World Championships a total of seven times throughout his career.

“Don’t forget he’s got the most ever podium finishes in the Worlds. I think he could have won the Worlds three times. So being so close to success on so many occasions, it would have been unfair for him not to win the Worlds at least once.”

“Others won in Liège but their lack of other triumphs makes those victories stand out. But the next thing you knew, straight after Liège, Alejandro would be winning Romandie or the Dauphiné or a stage in the Tour. Factor in the podiums and then you really see the variety and versatility this guy could show. Over 21 years. The guy’s unique. Unique," he declared.

The Spaniard will remain connected with Movistar, but now as part of the management. Up until his retirement he's had strong results, winning the new Gran Camiño race, finishing second at Flèche Wallone and 6th at Il Lombardia perhaps as his season highlights, besides two complete Grand Tours in the Top15. We never had any problems deciding on his race programme," it is point out aswell.

For large years, Valverde has been the key figure of Movistar. “No doubt about it. But it wasn’t dependence. We just enjoyed watching him perform and succeed in all kinds of races, barring Paris-Roubaix," Unzué answered. "He’s fought with the greatest sprinters, the greatest Classics racers, the best uphill finishers, mountain time trials, week-long stage races. To do everything he did, you’d need to sign six different kinds of riders.

“And in a sport where everybody says the level of racing and the quality of the competitors is constantly on the rise, he’s managed to do everything and more. It’s been a privilege to watch," he concluded.

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