The second-year pro Spaniard, who is currently racing the Vuelta al Pais Vasco wearing the blue jersey as leader of the youth classification, talks about free diving in Mallorca during the off-season, moving to Andorra and chasing his first pro victory with Quick-Step Floors.
Relaxing at home
Since I can remember I have always dived into the Mediterranean Sea surrounding Mallorca, where I come from. I love the freedom of it, diving below sea level, holding your breath and exploring the great world which exists below. Sometimes I even catch fish, which we grill in the evening with family and friends.
During the season, I do not have much time for it though, but it has become quite an off-season habit. To feel good in the water and being able to hold your breath for a long time is similar to having a good feeling on the bike and being in a good shape. When you start diving again, you can't hold your breath for long but the more time you spend in the water, the better you get.
In the beginning – after the season has ended – when I jump into the water for the first time again, I run out of air after less than a minute and a half, but after a few weeks I feel like a new person, like a shark in the water, moving more relaxed around.
Without moving, my longest time spent under water is 2:58, but when you dive deep or use energy on swimming around, it is a different story. You use up the oxygen in the air much faster than when you are relaxed.
Two months of diving is usually what I get before I have to put it aside to focus 100% on the preparation for the new season. That is usually when I would have a serious block of training coming up, however, last year I slipped while walking my dog, cutting a wound in my knee, an injury that kept me off the bike for three weeks, which was a bit of a setback.
Moving to Andorra
This year, I moved from Mallorca to Andorra to get better training options. Don't get me wrong, Mallorca is fantastic for training but in the summer it is very crowded with tourists and cyclists who come to explore the island. I prefer more air around me, to stay calm away from all the buzz, and in Andorra it's perfect for just that. With mountains going over 2000 meters, you can even do some good altitude training.
Moving from home, away from family and friends can be a bit difficult but for the moment it is okay. I like it in Andorra, the beautiful landscape certainly doesn't make it worse, which is perhaps why many other Spanish riders have opted for an apartment here as well.
I already feel a big difference from last year – where I had some good moments, especially winning the youth classification in Burgos and getting close to the victory on stage 6 of La Vuelta – and today. I am calmer in the bunch and more aware of what to do in different situations, in and outside races. I still have a lot to learn and although we are many young riders on the team, we are fortunate to have some more experienced riders – even big champions – like Gilbert, Stybar and Jungels, who are happy to share their experiences and show us the right direction.
I didn't have the perfect start to the season – I guess you always want to do better – but like with diving I am feeling better and better with every day. After the Abu Dhabi Tour I did almost one month without racing so when I arrived at the start of the Volta a Catalunya two weeks ago, I didn't know what to expect. It turned out to be a really hard race, where I had some good and some less good days, but finally I feel the form is taking shape. I am not at my top but I have a good sensation.
Aiming to be a better rider than last year
These days, I am racing Vuelta al Pais Vasco, where I ended 14th in the GC last year, a good result for me, especially considering I was a neo-pro and had to help David de la Cruz. The important thing for me in this race is to improve my result from last year, while also being there for Julian in the decisive moments, like yesterday on the last climb when he asked me to attack to test the waters.
Our tactic worked out well when he took the second stage win of the race in just two days, in Bermeo! I am currently sitting in seventh overall and holding the best young rider jersey, but the individual time trial can change a lot of things, so I will take the days as they come, doing my best at all times.
It is really nice to be part of a team that just keeps on winning. It is not just here, it's in every race we do, we always go for victories. It makes you want to work harder and believe that you too can take the win one day. That is what I will have my eyes on, taking my first victory with this amazing team.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images