30 September, 2016

#Ride: the very first turns of the pedal

Passion is born in a few, but very significant moments. The video #Ride, starring the ladies from the Bizkaia Durango professional team, is the first part of our #RideFightWin trilogy, which this year focuses on women's cycling. #Ride talks about the first turns of the pedal, about how and why their passion for bicycle riding came about.

When 7-year-old Lourdes Oyarbide (Egino, Alava, 1994) pedaled around on her first bike at the Aratz-Araia Cycling School, little did she know that over time, she would end up riding her Orbea Orca in international trials and taking part in world and European competitions. “I had a great time, and it gave me an excuse to get out of the house during the week. It was like a little adventure,” she remembers.

Lourdes eventually came to pedal alongside 50-60 other children in her cycling school. “Now there are 20 in each category. Parents are afraid to take their kids out into the country or on the open road. They prefer to have them in some sports center, where they’re under control, and that affects the reserve of young athletes in this sport.

Mavi García (Palma de Mallorca, 1984) is a “new arrival” to cycling, after having participated in skating, track and field and the duathlon, a specialty in which she still competes. In fact, she came in third place in the women's category and first in the mixed team relays in the last World Championships). And what's more, she was just crowned Spanish Champion! “My brother was really involved in the cycling world. One day, I did a duathlon without having hardly ridden a bike and I won. I saw that I had potential. A friend of mine spoke with the Federation, which put me in contact with the folks at Bizkaia-Durango. I did a test ride and was signed by the team,” she remembers.

Lourdes and Mavi compete on the Bizkaia-Durango team, one of the women's road teams that, along with Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling and Michela Fanini, form part of the commitment we have made for yet another year to women's cycling in all categories. We've set our sights high, and we're very excited about the new additions to the Enduro and Primaflor-Orbea team this year, not to mention the Luna Pro Team and our triathletes.

The riders from Alava and the Balearic Islands are two faces of a sport that is struggling to keep its flame burning, and that is calling for greater professionalism, especially in Spain.

“We try to do good work, but there is a lot of room for improvement: schedules are set very late, itineraries are changed at the last minute, etc. All of this messes up any planning,” confesses the cyclist from Egino.

Mavi adds two personal experiences to illustrate this: “I had a race on Saturday and Sunday, and on the same day that I flew in from the Balearic Islands to compete in Saturday's race, they canceled the one on Sunday. If I was only going to that one, I would have flown in for nothing. There was another time when they canceled a special sprint during the race because the judges did not arrive on time.”

Devoted to cycling

Far from giving up, the two members of the Bizkaia-Durango team are fighting even harder to continue to grow in this sport and to give women's cycling greater visibility. As a matter of fact, this first year of pedaling has been so gratifying for Mavi that she has requested her first leave of absence from her job in over a decade to continue competing.

“Over the last few years, I have worked a split shift at work. I trained at midday on the bike and went running after work. I also used my vacation time to compete. I ate on the run and didn't rest properly…there's no way to be on the same level as someone who trains professionally like that. That's why I've taken this leave of absence. It's been a month now, and I'm doing great,” she confesses.

“In my case,Lourdes observes, “I have to turn in a final degree project soon, and I'm trying to balance that with an internship at a company. I work 8 hours, then I train…It's pretty tough. I even feel like sitting down to read a book, and that's something I've never liked!”

The challenge of professionalism

“The situation is terrible in Spain. In other countries, a team signs you on and you go professional. Here, little importance is given to women's cycling,” Mavi declares.

Lourdes shares her opinion. “Look at Sheyla Gutiérrez and Ane Santisteban. Sheyla was signed by Cylance-Inspire and Ane joined Alé Cipollini, and they both evolved noticeably. The rest of us have been studying, working or doing both, and it's difficult to make progress that way.”

“Right now, we're on a small team,” explains the cyclist from Egino, “and we're lucky enough to be able to travel to compete and to have almost the same calendar as other squads, which makes it possible to gain experience. We don't have the same facilities as the rest, but we are very happy with the performance and hard work of the team.”

Striving towards equality

Lourdes finds hope in the emergence this year of the UCI Women's World Tour, a calendar of 17 races that began last March and will end in September. “It seems like a path towards achieving greater equality and unifying things, regardless of gender. They are starting to show some races on television, and the fact that the girls compete right before or right after the men really gets the crowds going,” says the athlete from Alava.

Mavi sees it the same way. “It will benefit us all as soon as they introduce a bit more professionalism into women's cycling. Combining some of the races with men's cycling is very good for us. What happens is that in Spain, we sometimes start out 10 minutes after the men in some races, and no one even knows about it. It may be a problem with the media coverage of this sport,” she concludes.

The #RideFightWin trilogy continues in October with the two-time Ironman champion and Orbea triathlete Åsa Lundström in the days prior to her third participation in one of the toughest competitions in the world: the Hawaii Ironman.