About days of new colours and training in the mild climate of the Spanish Levant

Neither the Filomena storm, with its heavy snowfalls that have covered a large part of the centre and east of the Iberian Peninsula for days in white, nor the health situation at continental level due to the coronavirus are the best contexts in which to continue the work. But with the maximum precautions, optimising human resources for the sake of greater safety and generating a protection bubble against COVID-19, the second pre-season meeting of the EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team has been taking place since Thursday 14 in the incomparable setting of Oliva Nova Beach & Golf Resort. The Levantine regions of La Safor, Marina Alta and Marina Baja are home to the vast majority of professional cycling structures these days. The blessing of a mild climate and outstanding infrastructures. The Coll de Rates, these days, is the great summit of cycling.

Days of intense cycling, of constant preparation in the mechanical field, of advances in logistics, of calendar planning, of media commitments, of photographic sessions and video recordings. There is a constant stream of activity within the bubble. In just a few days, on Sunday the 24th, the competitive debut of the Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana 1969 arrives. The whole structure, it could not be otherwise, remains very attentive to the daily evolutions. These are not simple days from a health point of view. It is not easy to fit the current context and the restrictions established by the authorities with the work activity. And competitive cycling, even more so that of top-level competition, is.

The riders Mark Christian and John Archibald are the only absences, for the moment, in this concentration due to the guidelines set by the UK authorities. Temporarily, all the work has to be done from a distance. At the Stage, some luggage, things from the airlines companies, have yet to show any signs of life. But this is much more anecdotal. “This is the first time in my career, and it’s been a few years, that something like this has happened to me,” smiles a resigned Luca Wackermann.

Work. Rest. This is the daily routine for the EOLO-KOMETA Cycling Team riders. To reinforce the safety and impact of the work outdoors, the field work is done in two groups and avoiding as much as possible the passage through urban areas. Diego Pablo Sevilla, one of the veterans of the structure and a good connoisseur of the area, proposes some routes that do not even appear on the maps. The “problem” is the slopes to be negotiated on many occasions. Small giants unknown to professional cycling. In the pre-season, the infrastructures of professional cycling and the landscapes and most idyllic routes of cycling tourism come together.

Veteran, experienced riders such as Francesco Gavazzi or Manuel Belletti are no exception to those who are now reaching the professional stage, such as Arturo Grávalos or Davide Bais: in their eyes, the light of illusion, that special glow that creates desire and motivation. “It’s a really beautiful block, the harmony is magnificent”, says Belletti. “The atmosphere is really very good between everyone, riders and staff”, reinforces Alejandro Ropero. Mattia Frapporti, another of the reinforcements of 2021, passes his hands through his torso wearing the new equipment. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I’m really happy to be part of this project,” he says.

Hours of cycling with new colours and new materials. Massages. Relaxation. Maybe some series in the computer. And also readings, sometimes even technical ones. “In December all this was very new for me, now everything and everyone is more part of my life and I am even more comfortable. In the afternoons I have to take a little time off to continue with my English classes and also to make some progress in the world of massage, which attracts a lot of my attention and I’m studying about this,” says Arturo Grávalos.

These days, the director Jesús Hernández is in the habit of sharing training with the cyclists on the bicycle. With some, like Gavazzi or Belletti, he has even competed within the peloton. “I am no exception. Many sports directors go out to ride with the cyclists, although on quieter days. They make me suffer, they take revenge,” jokes the Madrid native. And he adds: “In a way, the role of director in itself marks a psychological barrier from the cyclist’s point of view. On the bike, on the road, you talk to the cyclist, exchange views with him, get close to him… That barrier disappears. I think this is a very useful and fruitful moment”.

The start of the 2021 season is closing…

[ Atila Madrona]