The ‘stagiaire days’ of Arturo Grávalos and Eduardo Pérez-Landaluce
In mid-August, the sports management of the Kometa-Xstra Cycling Team confirmed that Arturo Grávalos from La Rioja and Eduardo Pérez-Landaluce from Asturias would be competing with the continental structure as stagiaires for the rest of the season. Both, in their last season as U23 riders, received the news with the greatest enthusiasm, but also with important sporting challenges ahead, fed by the first occasion since the birth of this project in which they doubled their competitive presence with two fundamental events for the formation of the Contador Foundation. In this sense, Grávalos was called for the Tour de Hongrie, while Pérez-Landaluce was called for the Giro d’Italia U23.
“We were very well prepared. To have Rafa as a director is a real luck. He has been one of the best gregarios that there has been in Spanish cycling, he has taught us a lot and we have been able to face this adventure with very clear ideas about how to work, about how to run in a professional way… You are going to run and you are very clear about what you are going to find, nothing takes you by surprise”, thanks Grávalos. Pérez-Landaluce completes: “When they confirm it, it’s something that fills you up. You feel very happy and very grateful for the opportunity to run races of high level and against rivals of great quality. If you don’t want to improve, you always improve. It has been a positive experience, incredible”.
Both Arturo and Eduardo highlight the good atmosphere of their travels through Hungary and Italy. The cyclist from Oviedo puts it this way: “We have always had a very good feeling, a very good atmosphere; you are very comfortable and that is always good, with colleagues who are now professionals and have been your colleagues for a whole year in the lower categories”. The Asturian, during the Italian race, shared a room with two direct ex-colleagues like Sergio García and Alejandro Ropero, also with Daniel Viegas until his retirement. In the case of Grávalos, his partner was the veteran of the team, Diego Pablo Sevilla. “He has been great, Diego handles himself very well in the professional world and is a great conversationalist”.
What is the most unforgettable experience for Grávalos? “Listen to Jesús through the earphone and always tell us ‘Good job’, ‘C’mon, boys’. And the fact of signing autographs, taking photos or giving away a jerry can and generating tremendous joy, but I’m nobody! You realise how important a career in a particular environment can be in itself”. For Pérez-Landaluce, who already knew about the Giro U23 last season, an anecdote of the last day in Italy, after the conclusion of the race: “We were in Milan and several runners and staff members went out for dinner. A few hours before we had been climbing the Mortirolo and at that time we were walking with an exaggerated hunger. I really like fajitas, I saw on the menu they had and asked for them. They started to bring plates and dishes… it was for two people. But I ate everything. And in the end it went all the way to dessert”.
Questioned by the most surprising thing about these experiences in the professional platoon, Grávalos reflects: “The rhythm is very noticeable. Maybe not so much with respect to the continental teams, but with the World Tour. It is very noticeable. They are driving the race. And you compete in a very different way. When you pull out to break a breakaway, and breakaways are fought over a lot, especially in certain teams, you really pull out. And if you stay there, it’s impossible to go back. I’m amazed at how they get off: they file down the ditches. Going up or on the plain you more or less ride there, but on the descents it’s hard to believe that they’re riding a bike. How it handles!”.
Both shared the last commitment of the season of the Kometa-Xstra Cycling Team, in a demanding edition of the Ordiziako Klasika, with the guarantee of the previous professional experience accumulated in the Hungarian and Italian roads. “In addition, Arturo and I had just been at the Memorial Valenciaga the day before”, said Perez-Landaluce. “It was hard for me, I noticed that accumulated fatigue. But I was also more relaxed because of many insignificant things like getting to know the bus, having been able to accumulate kilometres in important races… More experienced”. “Without a World Tour Ordizia category team it was more like an under 23, all day attacking on a route not easy to consolidate a breakaway, a crazy race, with rain, with everyone looking to run ahead and a lot of nerves…”.
(automatic translation, sorry for mistakes)