Former road world champion Alejandro Valverde hit the ground running in his new life as a gravel rider, winning his debut event in his native Spain on Sunday.
The 42-year-old, who retired from his road career at the end of last season, powered away solo at La Indomable, a 105km race in Berja, Almería, to cross the line four minutes and 43 seconds ahead of second place Ismael Esteban Agüero (Logos Energía).
British cyclo-cross champion Cameron Mason (Trinity Racing) came third to complete the podium. Writing on Twitter (opens in new tab) after the event, the 22-year-old said: “I rode smooth almost caught 2nd place by the line. There was no catching the winner, apparently he used to be a good bike rider.”
3rd in the first UCI Gravel World Series of the year at La Indomable. 2.5hr of straight climbing from the start then a flat out descent to the finish 🤯 I rode smooth almost caught 2nd place by the line. There was no catching the winner, apparently he used to be a good bike rider pic.twitter.com/fG4TMzOOtmApril 23, 2023
On the gravel roads of Andalucía, Valverde tore clear of his competitors in the first two kilometres, and rode alone up the day’s 25km-long climb. The race took in a total elevation of 2,400m, and marked the opening of the Trek UCI Gravel World Series calendar, which counts 16 events, including The Gralloch in Scotland this May.
La Indomable brought a stark change for Valverde, who would typically spend late April racing in the Ardennes Classics during his road career. Today, he holds the record for the most wins at La Flèche Wallonne, claiming the title five times.
Since retiring, the Spaniard has remained with Movistar – with whom he spent 12 seasons on the road – and now rides as a member of the team’s new gravel squad.
There was further success for Movistar in the women’s La Indomable, with British rider Hayley Simmonds finishing on the third step of the podium. The race was dominated by Carolin Schiff of Canyon CLLCTV Gravel, who won by a whopping margin of 14 minutes and 10 seconds over her team-mate and German compatriot Jade Treffeisen.
Valverde will next be in action at the Traka, a 360km gravel event setting out from Girona, Spain this Saturday. In last year’s edition, Italian rider Mattia de Marchi held off EF Education-EasyPost’s Lachlan Morton to the title.
It is currently unknown which other races Valverde will take part in as he builds up his gravel pedigree towards July’s UCI Gravel World Championships in Veneto, Italy.