With the 2014 WorldTour season drawing to a close in Beijing on Tuesday (October 14), Alejandro Valverde’s place at the top of the world rankings will be confirmed.
The Spaniard’s second place at the Giro di Lombardia was enough to see the Movistar man overhaul compatriot Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the overall standings and with neither in action in Beijing, Valverde will end the year in top spot.
It is the first time the 34-year-old has done so since the WorldTour was revamped in 2009, despite having twice won its precursor, the UCI Pro Tour.
With victories at La Fleche Wallonne and Clasica San Sebastian to his name this year, alongside third overall at the Vuelta a Espana and fourth at the Tour de France, Valverde becomes the third Spaniard – after Contador and three-time winner Joaquim Rodriguez to top the UCI WorldTour rankings.
Including his results on the UCI Europe Tour, Valverde has amassed ten race wins in 2014, alongside topping the overall and points classifications at the Ruta del Sol.
He has also finished the top three an incredible 25 times – and that is before any of his overall placings are taken into consideration.
So we have picked out some of the key moments of the new world number one’s stunning season in the pictorial highlights of Valverde’s 2014 below.
Relive his year through the lens of UCI WorldTour photographer Stefano Sirotti in the full-screen gallery below.
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Valverde kicked off his season in style with a string of victories in Europe, including at Roma Maxima. He won six races and bagged the overall title at the Ruta del Sol before he had started his WorldTour season (pic: Sirotti)
King of the hills
After an encouraging start to his WorldTour season, Valverde's first victory at the highest level arrived at La Fleche Wallonne (pic: Sirotti)
One for the collection
Alejandro Valverde kisses his La Fleche Wallonne trophy. Valverde won five one-day races in all in 2014 (pic: Sirotti)
He did not have it all his own way, however. Simon Gerrans beat him to Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory but as the podium places mounted up so did the WorldTour points (pic: Sirotti)
Man for all seasons
Valverde leads Contador on the cobbled stage five of the Tour de France (pic: Sirotti)
Out on his own
Despite losing time on the cobbles, Valverde remained in overall contention throughout the Tour de France, particularly when Alberto Contador followed Chris Froome in succumbing to injury (pic: Sirotti)
Valverde's form has seen him win legions of new fans this season as he fought his way back to the top despite Nairo Quintana's emergence at Movistar (pic: Sirotti)
Four into three
Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot and Jean-Christophe Peraud battled for the podium places at the Tour de France as The Shark romped to the yellow jersey (pic: Sirotti)
But the Hautacam proved to be Valverde's undoing as, despite being well-placed overall for much of the Tour, he dropped off the overall podium (pic: Sirotti)
Back on track
Valverde raced back into form with victory at the Clasica San Sebastian though (pic: Sirotti)
Celebrating on the podium with the traditional prize - and 80 more WorldTour points to his name (pic: Sirotti)
Red for danger
Valverde gave an early indication of his form at the Vuelta a Espana by claiming the red jersey as early as stage two (pic: Sirotti)
Magic eight ball
Valverde's stage win in La Zubia - which saw him reclaim the red jersey - was his eighth career stage win at the Vuelta (pic: Sirotti)
Another trip to the podium for Valverde, his Vuelta a stage win being his tenth win of the season - a total not including his overall and points classification successes at the Ruta del Sol (pic: Sirotti)
Number one, this way
Valverde plays to the crowd as he showcases the red jersey (pic: Sirotti)
Best of enemies
The battle for the world number one spot became a two-horse race after Nairo Quintana was forced to abandon through injury. Valverde and Spanish compatriot Contador share a laugh before one stage (pic: Sirotti)
Valverde, Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez were regulars at the heart of the front group as they battled for the red jersey and podium spots (pic: Sirotti)
Valverde was boosted by his ability to pick up bonus seconds against the rouleurs - for example, outsprinting Nacer Bouhanni on stage 13 (pic: Sirotti)
Valverde celebrates another Grand Tour podium place - the sixth of his career, and third in three years (pic: Sirotti)
Valverde and, at the time the new leader of the world rankings Alberto Contador, on the Vuelta podium with Chris Froome (pic: Sirotti)
Before the battle for the final WorldTour points of the season got underway, Valverde donned the Spanish jersey as he bagged bronze at the World Championships (pic: Sirotti)
Points mean prizes
Dan Martin soloed to victory, but Valverde's second place - with Alberto Contador getting dropped and suffering a crash - was enough to seal world number one at the Giro di Lombardia (pic: Sirotti)
Second place in Lombardy was the 25th race of the season at which Valverde had occupied one of the top three spots - alongside several top three finishes in the overall, points and mountains classifications of various stage races (pic: Sirotti)
Cheers to that!
Though it was not guaranteed at the time, until Alberto Contador withdrew from the Tour of Beijing, Valverde was able to toast his return to the top on the Lombardy podium. Could he replicate Rodriguez's achievement and make it back-to-back successes in 12 months time?