Interview with Javier Benítez Pomares, former professional cyclist and owner of Mister Biker

 

Spanish former professional cyclist Javier Benítez descending on a bike

As part of an ongoing collaboration with the website www.gregarioscc.com, I have been carrying out a series of interviews with prominent people involved in the cycling community in the Valencia Region. The article below is an English translation of the original Spanish text which was published on 02/03/22, which you can read here: «Sin gregarios no hubiera logrado nada como corredor» – Javier Benítez X Gregarios.

Welcome to the new installment in our series of interviews with some of the many people who make up the cycling community in the Valencia Region of Spain, an area known throughout the world for the excellent conditions and facilities it offers all year round for the practice of cycling.

Javier Benitez Pomares, former professional racing cyclist
Former professional cyclist and owner of Mister Biker, Javier Benítez

Javier Benítez Pomares (Canals, Valencia, 1978) competed in the highest professional category between 2005 and 2011, during which time he notched up a total of 24 victories. During his competitive career he stood out above all for his sprinting skills, with 3 Valencian Regional Championships and a runner-up spot at the Spanish National Road Championship figuring in his palmarès.

Today he runs the well-known bicycle shop Mister Biker in Xátiva, in the province of Valencia, and collaborates as a brand ambassador with the Spanish specialist cycling clothing company Gobik, while also contributing to their product design process.

 "Cycling was the only thing I ever really wanted to do"

 

Gregarios: To begin with, tell us a little about yourself, Javier, and above all, how did you get into cycling?


JBP: I have been passionate about cycling since I was 8 years old, when I entered the local cycling academy in Canals, my hometown. My father was very keen on cycling, as was my grandfather, who helped me to train to improve my climbing and gave me advice. I loved cycling from the beginning, I received encouragement from those people around me and, looking back, it was the only thing I ever really wanted to do.

Former rcing cyclist Javier Benitez winning a sprint
Javier Benítez obtained 24 victories during his career as a professional

Gregarios: The RAE (Royal Spanish Academy) gives us a definition of the term “gregario” in relation to the world of cycling as that of a “rider charged with helping a team leader or another cyclist of a superior category than their own”, and although this definition is true, it does seem somewhat incomplete. As someone who sees the world of competitive cycling from the inside, how would you define the concept of “being a gregario”?


JBP: The term gregario could not be more relevant to me as a cyclist, as when I was a professional I was first and foremost a sprinter, and as such I had to place complete trust in my teammates, my gregarios, to safely take me as close to the finish line as possible and to leave me in the best possible position. When you find yourself in the position of having a whole team of professional cyclists working for you, sacrificing their own opportunities for you, in order to help you succeed, then you feel a great sense of  obligation to do your best and get the best possible result, both for yourself and for them. The spirit of the gregario is a fundamental part of cycling for me, and without gregarios I wouldn’t have achieved anything as a rider.

Gregarios: Has bicycle racing changed a lot since the time in which you started up to now? And if so, in what way?


JBP: It has changed a lot for me, in two main ways. First of all, the UCI category system makes it difficult for the more modest teams to participate in the most important, most renowned events, which are mainly restricted to World Tour teams, with a small number of Pro teams. Continental teams are allowed to participate by means of a system of invitations. Secondly, and this is related to the above, the increased accessibility and greater television coverage of bike races by specialized channels such as Eurosport means that those teams that do participate in televised events generate a much greater impact and return for their sponsors than before, which in turn makes it that much more attractive to invest in professional cycling. Being in a break for a couple of hours in a televised race is worth a lot of money to a sponsor. As a consequence, the smaller teams have become smaller while the bigger teams, the ones that compete in televised races, have become bigger.

"Professional cycling is a much more attractive investment today"

Interior of Mister Biker bike shop in Xativa, Valencia, Spain
Interior of Mister Biker bicycle shop in Xátiva, Valencia
 

Gregarios: What did you do after hanging up the bike as a professional?


JBP: At first it was very difficult for me to accept that my career had ended at a relatively young age and when I was still performing at a very high level: I was still winning races and was a silver medalist in the Spanish nationals. However, a series of circumstances made it impossible for me to continue and so I turned my attention to creating a business capable of meeting all the needs that cyclists have, a complete experience for cyclists, and that’s how I came to create Mister Biker, which is now in its 8th year and, I feel justified in saying it, has become a reference in the cycling world both in Valencia and in Spain as a whole. 

Javier Benitez is a brand ambassador for Gobik cycling clothing
Javier Benítez is a brand ambassador for Gobik cycling clothing

Gregarios: And how do you see yourself: cyclist, model or businessman?


JBP: As I said at the beginning, I have been passionate about cycling all my life, and when I finished my career as a professional it was always my intention to remain involved in cycling in some capacity. I still ride my bike regularly, I run my cycling business and I collaborate as an ambassador and in product development with different brands, which also includes working as a model from time to time. For me all these facets have the same importance in a way, since they are all part of my involvement with cycling.

"After my professional career I always intended to remain in cycling"

Mister Biker bike shop in Xativa, Valencia
Mister Biker in Xátiva, Valencia
 

Gregarios: Gregarios organizes its own Gran Fondo, called ‘La Gregarios’. It was originally held for 5 editions in the 1940’s and the route covers the 400km that separate Madrid, in the centre of Spain, from Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast. There are also a couple of alternative, shorter routes, for less demanding legs, and the question is… do you see yourself up to the task of completing the next edition of La Gregarios, which is to be on October 8th this year? And which other person would you nominate to complete the event?
 

JBP: I still get on my bike quite a bit, and even do the odd race, just for fun, so I don't think the distance would be a problem for me, physically. Rather, it would depend on the dates and my work commitments. I would love to, so we’ll see closer to the date.
And if I couldn't participate, I would nominate María Salvo, who is also an ambassador for Mister Biker and Gobik, as well as for Alberto Contador’s bicycle brand Aurum, and I’m sure he could do it too.

Facade of Mister Biker in Xativa, Valencia
Mister Biker shopfront in Xátiva, Valencia

 

Do not miss the most recent interviews published in Gregarios with the winner of the Giro in 2000 Stefano Garzelli, Galican triathlete and former Spanish champion Saleta Castro and the Spanish national cycling coach Pascual Momparler.

Michael Dixon

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