Alejandro Valverde, the celebrated Spanish cyclist, recently revealed in an interview with El Pais that he seriously contemplated a return to professional cycling, even after his official retirement following the 2022 Tour of Lombardy. At 43, Valverde, known as Bala, expressed that he still felt very much like a racer at heart. “I was struggling at the beginning of 2023. As the season commenced, and I continued feeling strong, doubts about retiring too early crept in,” he shared. Despite his yearning for competition, he ultimately decided against a comeback.
Valverde, currently serving as an advisor at Movistar, disclosed that during 2023, he participated in gravel races and maintained his training regimen. This persistent engagement with the sport led him to question his decision to retire. He recalled a conversation with Eusebio Unzué, Movistar’s team manager, where he toyed with the idea of returning to racing. “Eusebio asked me, ‘Alejandro, what are you doing? Are you mad? What need do you have for this?’ His words made me realise the lack of necessity in my return,” Valverde recounted.
The former world champion now embraces his role as a consultant at Movistar. He plans to attend more races in this capacity, offering assistance where needed. Though currently qualified only at the national level, he is considering his future in a UCI-level role, possibly as a team director.
Valverde opened up about the psychological challenges of transitioning from professional cycling to retirement, especially given his continued competitive spirit and high fitness level. “I felt like a cyclist,” he admitted, describing the difficulty of attending races and not being part of the competition. Despite these struggles, Valverde seems to have found a balance, accepting his new role while still maintaining a connection to cycling.
His contributions to Movistar extend beyond advisory; he actively participates in training sessions, offering insights and advice to current riders. This blend of experience and contemporary insight positions Valverde as a valuable bridge between the racers and the team’s management.
Valverde’s continued involvement in cycling, be it in gravel or mountain biking, reflects his enduring passion for the sport. He plans to compete in select gravel races and mountain bike events like the Cape Epic, aligning his interests with the needs of his sponsors. His journey from a prolific professional career to a mentor and advisor highlights the evolving nature of an athlete’s relationship with their sport.