Alejandro Valverde Belmonte was born in Las Lumbreras, Murcia on 25th April 1980. He is one of the top Spanish cyclists and rides for the UCI Pro Team Caisse d’Epargne. He won the 2006 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the 2006 UCI Pro Tour series Championship. His rare combination of being a strong climber, time trialist and sprinter meant his collecting the silver medal in the UCI Road World Championships in 2003 and 2005.
Valverde’s father was an amateur cyclist and he gave his son a bike for his sixth birthday. This amazing youngster began amateur road racing in Jumilla where he finished second. He was soon on the road to victory and he gained more than fifty victories between the age of 11 and 13 and became known as ‘el Imbatido’, the Unbeatable. Valverde was soon offered a place riding for the elite amateur cycling team ‘Banesto’, but he did not do that well during this time, possibly due to the distance he had to travel. He then joined Kelme in 2002 and he stayed with this team for the next two years. During this time, Valverde won two stages of the 2003 Vuelta a España and finished 3rd in the General Classification. He won the Vuelta a Mallorca and a stage in the Vuelta a País Vasco the same year. In 2004 he had a fantastic year winning the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, the Vuelta a Murcia, a stage in Vuelta al País Vasco and the Vuelta a Burgos and coming 4th in the Vuelta a España after a crash put him out of the overall medal positions,.
In 2005, Valverde joined the UCI Pro Team Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne and he finished 2nd in the Paris-Nice race. Having beaten Lance Armstrong in the 10th stage of the Tour de France, he was forced to retire during the 13th stage with a knee injury. Despite his injury, he competed in the UCI World Cycling Championship in Madrid, where as team captain, he finished 2nd to Tom Boonen.
His determination and suitability in racing, enabled Valverde to continue winning medals, but his ambition was to win a Grand Tour. He entered the 2006 Vuelta as favourite and he won the 7th stage, dominating the mountain stages and despite winning the gold jersey after stage 9, he last the overall race to Alexander Vinokourov and had to settle for 2nd place. Again the gold medal alluded him in the 2006 World Championships and he came away with the bronze medal.
There has been a lot of controversy regarding the use of drugs in the cycling teams, and Valverde was implicated in this. The UCI called upon the Spanish Cycling Federation to open disciplinary against the rider, but they refused to comply with the request, saying that there was no new evidence against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport authorized Valverde to participate in the 2007 UCI Road World Championships, so let’s hope that this is the end of this unsavoury episode in this talented man’s career.