• Alejandro Valverde wins the 2018 Volta a la Communitat Valenciana (Getty)Source: Getty
With dodgy-ness still marring the sport - its biggest star is in the veritable dog house over salbutamol levels - how do you solve a problem like Alejandro Valverde? Do we have to?
Rachel de Bear

Cycling Central
7 Feb 2018 - 8:25 AM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2018 - 9:03 AM

This past weekend, Valverde put the lid on an overall victory of the five-stage Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.

The 37-year-old emphatically won two of the mountain stages defeating the likes of Luis Leon Sanchez, Adam Yates and Jakob Fuglsang with Sanchez and Fuglsang joining Valverde on the final podium. 

The Spaniard has not raced since he crashed out of the opening time trial at the 2017 Tour de France. His last victory was no less than his fourth at Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April last year - and several days before that, at La Fleche Wallone. But he's been training hard. 

"This victory is a reward to the great, hard work we did during the last few months with my recovery," Valverde said after the race. "That’s why I’m so happy because I know where I came from and everything I had to go through in order to bounce back from such a serious crash and injuries I sustained.

"It’s quite different, this feeling, from the one when I won the race for the first time, 14 years ago. This time I’m coming back from a very serious injury, a seven-month period without any racing, and it’s really comforting to see I’m doing as well as I did or even better. I had many things to show yet in 2004. Now I’ve done everything I could in cycling, even though I keep the same love and excitement towards this sport.

The last time he came back so hard from a hiatus was at the Tour Down Under in 2012 after serving a two-year ban for his implication in the infamous Operation Puerto blood bag scandal. He won the Willunga stage there, took stages at Paris-Nice and the Tour de France and finished second behind Alberto Contador at the 2012 Vuelta a España.  

When he was handed his ban, he said "I will return to cycling and I will continue to win."

During this forced break, a Movistar team doctor claimed Valverde was down to 60 kilos, had clocked 48,000 kilometres that year and was doing 3,000 sit ups a day. Perhaps an exaggeration but it spoke to his determination. 

Since his return in 2012, Valverde has clocked 51 of his 97 victories (as listed at ProCycling Stats). And since 2016:  

Many in the cycling community can't forgive him despite serving his time for his crime. They wanted an admission, an apology or at least some sort of repentance. Others point to research that indicates the long-term benefits of past doping and can't believe his success now. Others just love how entertaining a bike racer he is. And still others, because of the legacy of Armstrong et al, can't believe in drug testing, ever.  

Or because it's a crazy, mixed-up world, they have a foot in all these camps.  

We have no real evidence for anything other than his performances are believable. But no one - no rider, no team, no team spokesperson, no fangirl or boy - can ever really blame the cycling fans who just can't believe it. They've seen and heard it all.  

A quick google search translation of venga shows it means "Come on" like cheering. Or also, "yeah, right," as in disbelief. 

I really don't know where I stand. I never really wanted an admission or an apology from him - he served his time when others didn't. My gleeful, naive fan heart now mostly loves his entertaining racing. But there's still a small part of me that says "yeah, right." But I do that with a lot of riders and performances. And no one can blame me for it.

But mostly, as always, I look forward to seeing him race the Ardennes.