Pello Olaberria and the fundamental figure of the cycling´s masseur

There is an almost invisible, but fundamental cyclist class; a necessary role, far from the spotlights, so basic that it supports the whole structure and it would be unthinkable without its presence and action. They are, yes, the auxiliaries. They do everything from massaging to driving when they don’t stow loads or victualling in a race. And in the smallest sports structures the tasks are multiplied. Polyvalence is a valuable asset. Everyone ends up doing everything and without their help the high competition of this sport would be impossible. All the sports structures of the Alberto Contador Foundation have their own team. Pello Olaberria (Mutiloa, Gipuzkoa; 1994) is one of the auxiliaries of the continental Kometa Cycling Team. The Gipuzkoan is facing his second campaign in a structure to which he belonged in the past as a U23 rider. “The world of cycling is my passion. Many times I talk to physical friends or masseurs and tell them: ‘This isn’t just a massage and no more; the massage lasts two hours and the day has another 22 hours. If you don’t like cycling, it won’t work,” he says.

Olaberria was a professional for two seasons, enrolled in Murias-Euskadi during the 2016 and 2017 campaigns. The lack of offers led him to withdraw prematurely from new projects. He had studied to be a masseur and had begun to obtain the title of director. The Contador Foundation, in which Flex-Specialized competed for two seasons before making the leap to professionalism, was Enric Mac’s companion among others, and opened the doors for him to change roles and professional evolution. “If I had liked to continue one more year as a rider? Yes, but beyond this, in the end I’m in love with this sport, it’s what I like most in the world. I love it at all levels. I wanted to continue in any role. I have always had a good relationship with Fran Contador and Rafa Diaz Justo, once we had spoken in joke ‘one day you’re going to be our scout’. For 2018 they proposed this to me and I didn’t even think about it. An immense opportunity. I only have words of thanks to Fran,” he says.

The first year of life of a cycling formation is always more intense. Many are the screws that have to be adjusted so that the whole machine operates normally and diligently. It is a valid maxim both at a structural and personal level. “Last year in the end was very hard,” says Olaberria. “We had a lot of work, we faced many fronts … This season, with accumulated experience, I can take better control of the work, I do not have to seek so much advice or advice … “. In competition, many days away from home, the working day starts very early and ends quite late. The dream sometimes in a mere transition. Olaberria, who loves to practice sports outdoors, doesn’t mind increasing the early morning to go out for a run and exercise. It’s not always possible.

The daily agenda is very busy. “When they say to you, sometimes, ‘bah, in the end a soigneur is a lot of free time’, they think that you are going on holiday. Holidays! You have 25 hours ahead of you in the car, you have to get up super early and go to bed well beyond midnight,… In some races I also act as second director. Massages. If I have to prepare water bottles, I prepare them… It’s work! And I do it because it’s my passion”.

The day-to-day running is intense and constant and there is no member of the staff who does not have good words for Pello or for Jesús Lucio Dominguez, bus driver, cook and also a masseur. At the end a very strong bond is generated, based on several moments of the day. Massages, refreshments and post-stage assistance, transfers and other displacements, company in hospitals when a fall has taken place… Perhaps the massage is the most special moment of all. A time to share confidences, where to show concerns, calm moments for reflection. The masseur emerges as a fundamental figure. “Personally I am a lot of encouraging runners. I know what a good day is, a bad day… I try not to have any bad words, to support them in everything. I get along well with everyone. I trust them. They trust me. For a cyclist it can always be a lot harder to talk to the director, he can impose or things like that. It’s much easier with me. And I can help them, channel their concerns to Jesus or Fran … Whatever they need,” he says.

From Matteo Moschetti rests some trophy on the shelves of Pello Olaberria’s home in Mutiloa. And a number from the last Vuelta a Burgos, in which the Lombard won a stage. The Basque made very good friends with the rider from Milan. “At the end of the year he sent me home a gift with a very special dedication in gratitude for the whole year we shared together. I didn’t expect it at all. It was an impressive gesture. Matteo is the humblest runner I have ever met, he is very grateful. On top of the bike he has a lot of class. Any achievement of his makes me very happy,” he remembers.

The season is hard and long, yes, but it always leaves its moments for a recreation that, when you are in love with cycling, involves at least mountain. After an intense cycle of competitions, with up to four laps in stages between the Spanish and French calendars, a brief respite before the Tour of Hungary, the main objective of the season. Olaberria escaped to the Pyrenees for a few days. “Taking advantage of the fact that we have a house there, we went for three days. We took the opportunity to climb the big ports, but calmly of course. More cycling. I climbed the Tourmalet twenty minutes slower than when I climbed it two years ago on the Southern Route in a group where Elia Viviani, Ian Stannard and Daniele Bennatti were filming. I went to remember the old days… but to enjoy”, he jokes. He is the fundamental figure of the auxiliary.

(automatic translation, sorry for mistakes)