Alejandro Ropero, stage winner in the Giro d´Italia U23: “We all came out of the confinement stronger”

Alejandro Ropero is preparing to compete next October 12 in a Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasikoa race that fits well with his profile as a rider and that he is facing with many illusions after a great competitive return in Burgos and an exceptional Giro d’Italia U23 with a stage victory, two days of pink and a top ten in the overall final. The Grenadian is a very quiet boy, quite home, not little friend of late night and much more of good picks with colleagues in some game of the video console. We chatted with him a few days after he had caught up with some series, although Breaking Bad is still his favourite.

Two very intense months in competitive activity after the lockdown, how have you seen the team in this return to competition?
The results have been great for the experience we have had in the previous months. These months of work on the roller, without being able to go out on the streets and obviously also without competition could be a burden. But instead I think we have all come out of the confinement stronger, with a lot more desire to show even more of what we are capable of. Bearing this in mind, I believe that a super positive balance must be made. And we still have ahead of us the possibility of setting up good performances and giving it our all…

Did you expect a return to competition at such a high level?
You always hope things will go well, of course, but honestly, on a personal level, I didn’t expect it. There is a lot of competition and one of the particularities of our team is that we often compete against top-level world formations. In this sense, we have made the most of the schedule we had.

In this return, did you notice much difference between the riders given their different geographical origins? In the end the measures implemented in each country have been different, especially in terms of time, and in the team there are several nationalities represented….
In itself, I did not notice much difference. It is true that each runner has had his own cycle. Erik or Márton, in Hungary, could go out, and we in Spain or Italy could not. You might think that in the end it will be noticed, but I think that it has not been like that because none of us have had competitions. And of course because of the work of the coach Carlos Barredo.

Which moment or which rider has surprised you the most in this return?
In the end this is a question that seduces the topic, you resort to the riders who have stood out the most. Wouter Van Aert, for example, has done very well. But with the one who has shared the peloton I would say Remco Evenepoel in the Vuelta a Burgos.  He is very young, more so than me, but when you see him you see that he has the body of an old man, very well done, with a lot of muscle. He has a beastly strength and that in the climb gives him a plus over the rest. In the Picón Blanco he was tremendous.

Precisely in Burgos, first race of the Kometa-Xstra Cycling Team after the confinement, the performance was very satisfactory, with presence in the fugues, much combativeness and the peak of three runners in the same fugue in which you also were…
Without a doubt, a very important moment. That importance is understood by many factors, but personally if there is one thing that I am not going to forget in life it is going to be the victory of the Giro d’Italia.

That was the next question: you made your debut on the team’s roster this year and managed to wear one of cycling’s most iconic garments for several days?
An immense joy. It was something that arrived without having expected it. Of course, in all honesty, I did not expect to wear the maglia rosa under any circumstances. But once it happened it was a very beautiful experience, it was a real pride to wear it and a joy for the family. At the beginning of the year I spoke to my mother, Mrs. Molina, and said. “Mom, this year is about adaptation”. And after winning she reminded me of these words. We couldn’t believe it. It is true that it is at the U23 level, which is not the centenary Giro d’Italia, but it is a victory with professional license. Once I won the first stage and dressed in pink I knew it was going to be very difficult to keep it up. And it wasn’t the goal to keep it at all. But it was an experience that was very much enjoyed.

What is your assessment of the Giro d’Italia from a collective point of view?
Comparing it with the 2019, always focusing on the results, much better for the stage victory. Above all, more than the stage, I would highlight the victory in the overall team standings. There is always a certain joke with this general in other races, but in the case of this Giro U23 I put it in very high value. In the Giro there was a lot of level, some of the most powerful WorldTour subsidiaries competed. We had a great race. Edu adapted very well coming from the U23, Sergio made a great Giro, also Puppio, who was close to winning in another stage … The penalty was the withdrawal of Viegas, burdened by the falls and who tried very hard to help later, and that Fancellu could not be higher in the general, but also the falls were blamed on him and that always takes its toll.

As the Giro was about to start, it was also made public that in 2021 he will seek to make the jump to the professional continental category under the name of EOLO-KOMETA. Were you surprised by the announcement?
A few days earlier I saw some movement on the social networks that did make me think that something important could happen. But something like that… Fran was simply telling us to be on the lookout, she didn’t give us a single detail. The truth is that it was very well kept and, in the end, a pleasant surprise. I’ve been at the foundation since the junior team, I came through the Campus, and I’ve always seen that: that you work by taking short, firm steps, progressively.  Personally I did not know EOLO, the Italian colleagues quickly explained to us the level of the future sponsor. That, and the fact that it is a project that will last several years, gives you a margin of tranquillity and security to do things even better. And at a calendar level, especially at a calendar level, it opens many doors.

How have you seen all the security issues in these times of pandemic?
The measures are good, I have not seen them bad. In Burgos and in Getxo it has been possible to verify this. It is also true that, to put a but without more encouragement than to make an effort to improve, in some specific points there was still too much public for what it should be in this current context. Cycling, however much it is controlled, is a sport that allows people to be present in certain places. And this is something that is understood. It is assumed that they act responsibly, avoiding crowds, protecting themselves, without touching the riders… There will not be a cyclist who can complain about receiving encouragement! In this context in which we are, we must be very respectful of prevention, all of us, of course in competition, expose ourselves to a risk that can also harm us. In the Lagunas de Neila I remember a point, not in the area near the finish line, where you still had the feeling that there were more people. Even Jesus, our director, told us: we have come to compete in Burgos in some edition and there were not so many people… But of course, we must also understand this. We came from where we were, it was the first race, there was a lot of desire for cycling… It’s not easy.

Your ex-director in the U23 team, Rafa Díaz Justo, jokes a lot about your physical resemblance to Julian Alaphilippe on the bike, and you’ve said that you loved Valverde, the Murcian or the Frenchman?
I would stay more with Alaphilippe, today. At no time do I think I could be a racer like him. Right now I don’t know where my limit is, but I honestly think that I am a rider more suited to one-day races, stages with broken routes, a good manager of playground, than a cyclist for generals. I am not a pure climber. I am aware that going through the high mountains is going to cost me more than other riders. I also believe that motivated, worked, in good shape, I can be in the front, fighting and enduring. But not to compete and win.

?  Isola Press / Giro U23 (1, 4), Ricardo Ordóñez / Vuelta a Burgos (2), G. Gutiérrez (3)

(automatic translation, sorry for mistakes)