As far as Anthony Tan is concerned there is only one man Simon Gerrans need concern himself with this Sunday, as he attempts to repeat the feat of Cadel Evans five years ago.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

"He's an incomparable rider. There's not one able to keep as much focus and willingness to win through the whole season like he does. He performs just like the best and gives us lots of reasons to keep supporting him every day. Though he's spent so much time at the top, he shows us to be feeling like a 25-year-old. He's superb."


Take a guess and ask yourself who is delivering the praise and who is being praised.

Out of the 500 odd riders in the WorldTour, which rider maintains complete focus from his first race day to the last?

Not only that, but which rider performs at a race-winning level from his first day to the last, and has been doing so year after year for more than a decade?

In terms of both performance and consistency of performance, there is only one: Alejandro Valverde.

Take away any bias or prejudice you have for this admittedly polarising figure, and, begrudgingly or otherwise, you have to agree with Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzué's assessment of his 'favourite son' - there is no one else like him.

It's worth noting Valverde was as consistently brilliant as an amateur as he is as a professional, finishing second in his first race before winning his second the following week, followed by a reported 50 victories between the ages of 11 and 13, earning him the moniker 'El Imbatido' (The Unbeaten).

Turning pro for Kelme in 2002 he took just a year to find his feet, winning two stages and finishing third overall in the Vuelta a España, aged 23, before sprinting to second place at the 2003 road world championships in Hamilton, Canada, behind his compatriot Igor Astarloa.

Afterwards, Astarloa, four years Valverde's senior, slowly regressed into insignificance, falling foul of the anti-doping authorities in 2009 before retiring.

Meanwhile Valverde grew in prominence, in line with his results in one day races and Grand Tours, reaching his apotheosis with victory at the 2009 Vuelta, before he too found the long arm of the law, belatedly serving a two-year suspension for his involvement in the 2006 Operación Puerto blood doping investigation.

Much to the ire of cycling fans the world over he has never admitted any wrongdoing in the affair, and likely never will.

Granted, it's a small concession, but at least he concedes there's been a change since his return to competition in January of 2012 where, true to form, he picked up where he left off: a stage win and second overall at the Tour Down Under, another stage and overall winner of the Vuelta a Andalucía, another stage and third overall at Paris-Nice, a mountain stage of the Tour de France, two stages, two classifications and second overall at the Vuelta, and third at the worlds in Valkenburg.

"I feel better than when I was 25; seasons seem shorter to me because I'm able to cope with pressure better," he said upon signing a new three-year deal with Movistar that will see him with 'the Blues' till season 2017, aged 37. "Being more mature makes you more calm and helps you see things differently."

If you to ask him the one victory he craves most it would not be the Giro d'Italia - curiously, he has never raced it - or the Tour de France - surely, after this year that is beyond him; besides, Nairo Quintana is now their man for that - but the race he finished second in 11 years ago and has stood on the podium another four times since.

What's more, he's in the form of his life, and thus presents the greatest threat to my equal favourite to take out this year's worlds in Ponferrada: Simon Gerrans.

"I don't think I've ever arrived at this point of the season in such
good shape and, in my eyes, I've had the best season of my career this
year," Gerrans told AAP. "It's all really coming together for me this season, so I think this
could be a fantastic opportunity to win a world championship."

As far as I'm concerned it's a contest between these two formidable racers, who sit second and third on the individual UCI WorldTour rankings behind Alberto Contador, who both happen to be born in 1980, and whose birthdays are separated by less than a month.

The margins between them are minuscule. But after 254.8 kilometres and more than 4,000 metres' vertical climbing Sunday, the dichotomy in emotions will be huge. One will win, and the day will mark the highlight of their career. Another will lose, and the day will mark another lost opportunity.

It will be stuff of legend. And it's going to be beautiful to watch.