• Alejandro Valverde earned a podium position at his first career Giro d'Italia (Sirotti)Source: Sirotti
He may have struggled in the very high mountain stages but Alejandro Valverde matched his younger rivals through the rest of the 2016 Giro d'Italia to earn himself another Grand Tour podium.
By
Cycling Central

29 May 2016 - 8:09 AM  UPDATED 29 May 2016 - 8:24 AM

Valverde remains a somewhat polarising figure in cycling but as his career winds down there is a growing respect for his versatility, one which spans single day races and Grand Tours. Without doubt, he is a man for all seasons.

On Stage 20 he stayed close to the man in third place, a physically wounded Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) then rode off the back of the attack by new Maglia Rosa Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) to take third place overall.

"Both of us, Chaves too, deserve to be on the podium. I consider myself a good rider, who gives everything for myself, my team, my fans. Stepping onto the Turin podium with my kids tomorrow will be a massive satisfaction."

Barring incident,  Valverde will join a select group of riders who have claimed podium finishes in all three Grand Tours.

"I'm extremely happy about today," Valverde said. "I think everyone could see it when I punched the air so hard after the finish, standing there, waiting for the overall podium to be confirmed.

"It seemed as if I had won the race myself. It wasn't easy at all, but we got that third place and we came so close to the second spot. It's nothing short of incredible for me. Being on the podium of all three Grand Tours is a phenomenal achievement for my career.

"And at the end, after struggling so much in altitude, it seemed like I got used to it, because my legs during the final climbs were fantastic. The job we did all day, from the first attacks in Vars, the whole team helping me out in the Col de la Bonette, plus that final hand from Visco in Sant'Anna... it was marvellous.

"So many 'tifosi' at the final slopes meant I didn't have any real time gaps coming from my earpiece, I couldn't hear them, but I knew I was putting time on those behind, that we were climbing strong and, with visuals against Nibali, even taking time back on him. The last two ascents, it all really went well. I can only be happy.

"Nibali? We knew he was going to be really strong again today, and into the stage, before his attack, we could feel he was going to drop Chaves behind. He truly deserves this final victory. I was stronger than him at some stages, while he beat me at others."

Brave Kruijswijk fights to the end

Riding with a cracked rib after a race defining fall on Stage 19, Steven Kruijswijk (Lotto-NL-Jumbo) fell dropped down to fourth place during the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia.

It was not certain the Dutchman would even start the stage, but he continued with the hope of retaining the consolation of a podium place after earlier losing the Maglia Rosa so dramatically.

“I didn’t suffer for three weeks to give it all up now,” Kruijswijk said. “This last hard day was possible only because I suffered through the rest, but I am totally exhausted now.

"The only thing that was possible was to hold my top three spot because I lost the Giro yesterday. It’s a shame that I’m standing here without the pink jersey now.

Kruijswijk slipped out of the top three during the final part of the Colle della Lombarda climb. When Nibali attacked, Chaves and Valverde were able to hold on for a while. Chaves lost ground eventually and fell back to Kruijswijk’s group while Valverde joined with Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale).
 
“I did the best I could,” Kruijswijk continued. “I barely slept last night after my crash and I felt a lot of pain. I tried to ignore that pain. I wanted to forget everything and go to the finish line. I did. This was it.”