Interview with Marta Romeu Solaz, professional racing cycling

Marta Romeu Solaz, professional racing cyclist

Interview with Marta Romeu Solaz, professional racing cyclist.

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 version of the original Spanish text which was published on 30/03/22, which you can read here: entrevista con Marta Romeu Solaz.


“To be a gregario is to offer companionship, selflessness and altruism in an eminently individual sport”


After having spoken in recent weeks with cycling figures such as Stefano Garzelli, Javier Benítez and Pascual Momparler, in this new installment of our series of interviews with personalities from the world of cycling in the Community of Valencia, we talked to the Valencian cyclist Marta Romeu Solaz (Valencia, 1992), regional champion both on the road and in Marathon MTB, who's taking firm steps in the professional field while combining her cycling career with her work as Councilor for Education and Sports for Aldaia City Council.

An experienced triathlete who also practices cyclocross and competes in marathons, Marta began her cycling career with the AEL TXIRRINDULARI team in 2018, with whom she competed in the Spanish Cup, won the Valencian Road Championship and came second in the regional time trial championship. Currently part of the Women's UCI Continental Galician Team Farto – BTC, she spoke to us after having recently completed the Setmana Valenciana stage race on the road and the Andalucia Bike Race in MTB, and is preparing for what is hoped will be a season without the interruptions that we've all suffered in recent years. Combining so much activity is not easy, but Marta found a gap in her busy schedule to talk about her career so far, and her aspirations for the future.

Valencian professional cyclist Marta Romeu


Gregarios: Good afternoon, Martha. We have to begin by asking you how you manage to fit so much high-level sporting activity into your day-to-day life, since in addition to competing in the professional ranks you also work as a councilor in the Aldaia City Council. That must take some doing.


MR: The truth is that sometimes I'm short on time. Aldaia is a city of around 30,000 inhabitants, with 11 schools and institutes, and spread among the education and sports departments we have more than 50 people working on our projects. It's a lot of work, and with the events I attend in the evenings and the school PTAs, the truth is that I have to organize everything to the millimetre to be able to both train and compete.
 

Gregarios: The RAE (Royal Spanish Academy) provides us with 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”?
 

MR: Gregario in the world of cycling defines as a role with certain very specific objectives, all based on placing personal performance at the service of the team, with the overall focus placed on the individual results of another rider on the team. I think the figure of the gregario is the personification of companionship, selflessness and altruism in an eminently individual sport that is ultimately fought out between teams. A gregario is someone who shows a certain awareness, a character of their own that allows them help the rest of the team without asking for anything in return. A gregario must be someone who is very strong both physically and mentally, someone who accepts that their work isn't necessarily going to be highlighted, isn't necessarily going to receive much coverage in the media and is almost invisible to the spectators, to the general public that doesn't put much stock in or remember this type of rider, but who nevertheless does the lion's share of the work. It can seem unfair to think that you have to make a huge effort in order for someone else to win, so that they can walk off with the victory and you get nothing, but it is the collective effort that helps one person win the yellow jersey. And in the end, there is always just one yellow jersey. That's why I say that to be a gregario is to be a cyclist that gives their all without expecting anything in return.

Marta Romeu with Farto-BTC teammates
Marta Romeu joined Galicia's Farto-BTC team for the 2022 season


Gregarios: In terms of your career, and coming from a background in which you have practiced a wide variety of sports, what made you definitively opt for cycling?
 

MR: My father and uncle have always been keen cyclists and from my first beginnings in triathlon I started to go out with them. Riding with them made me want to do more cycling when I picked up an injury that stopped me from running or swimming.


Gregarios: And fully committed to the bike as you now are, what is your typical training day like?
 

MR: Well, if I have a gym session scheduled I get up very early and do the session before work. Then, if I have the afternoon off, I can be on the bike around 3:15, 3:30. I am lucky in this respect as the area where I usually train, Calicanto, is relatively close to home. It has three different types of climbs that I use for different workouts and it's only about 20 minutes from home by bike, so it gives me plenty of time to warm up before I start. The truth is that if I had to travel by car before I could get on my bike, I don't know how I would manage.


Gregarios: And do you design the training sessions, or do you work on feel?
 

MR: No, I don't design the sessions any more as, since December 2020, I've been working with a coach who analyzes my data and plans my training schedule. It's a huge step forward, since it allows me to in a way "disconnect" while I am training and to focus my concentration solely on the series and the numbers that have been set as targets for me. On top of that, it also eliminates any guesswork regarding what is best for me in any given moment. For example, as an athlete you may not pick up the signs that your body is sending you telling you that it is tired, but the coach does, and the plans are adjusted according to your needs and racing schedule. And I have to say, sometimes it's a relief to just have to focus on generating the target watts during the periods indicated in the plan, and not think about if they are enough or not enough or if I should be doing it in another way. It takes away a lot of uncertainty and a lot of stress.

Team Farto-BTC rider Marta Romeu
Marta Romeu in Team Farto-BTC colours


Gregarios: And is this improvement that you've noticed in your training also reflected in your performance?
 

MR: Very much. I first noticed it only 10 days after starting with the coach. Both when training and when competing: I respond better, I climb better, I feel much stronger, I recover better.
 

Gregarios: Given the limits you have in terms of time and the specific, targetted nature of your workouts, have you included turbo-trainer sessions or sessions using online applications into your training in order to optimize your time even further?
 

MR: The truth is that no, and above all for two reasons. The first is that, even when I am completing a specific training, I really like going out on my bike. It relaxes me, it distracts me, it makes me feel good, and I really like being out in nature. It helps me a lot to unwind. And the second is that I find it very important to work on bike-handling skills. It mightn't seem so at times from a spectator's point of view, but the pace is very fast in a race, there is very little space between the riders, and above all the descents are very, very quick. You have to be alert to a thousand things, to the road, to the other riders, to the bike... . For me it is a very important factor to take into account and it is something that can only be worked on when you are actually riding a bike outside.


Gregarios: This year has seen you change teams. How is the experience so far?
 

MR: The truth is that very well. My team, FARTO – BTC, competes in the UCI Continental category, which is let's say the second division, and we have a very attractive program, with races in Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium, as well as in Spain, of course. We are still at the beginning of the season so we haven't all coincided that much, but even so I feel very comfortable. We held a training camp earlier in the year, which was very positive, and in the Setmana Valenciana stage race, for example, we worked very well together. We already know each rider's strengths, who climbs better, who is a faster finisher, etc., and we know how to communicate very well with each other, which is very important. I had very little preparation for the Setmana Valenciana, and on top of that I had some mechanical problems that left me without many chances quite early on, but despite that we worked very well together and I can see that we'll have some good opportunites to do beautiful things throughout the season.

Galicia's Team Farto-BTC cycling team for the 2022 season
Galicia's Team Farto-BTC cycling team for the 2022 season

Gregarios: And what precisely are the goals you set for yourself for 2022?


MR: Well, the main objective, in all the races in which I start, is to perform well, to the best of my ability, both here in Spain and abroad, to show that I am strong and that my team is strong. That's always the first thing, but if you ask me about a specific goal I have to say, apart from the Spanish Cup, then the Spanish National Championship. I've been close on previous occasions and I think with proper preparation I can have a chance, at least for the podium. Then once in the race we will see, but in theory I think I can do well.

Valencian cyclist Marta Romeu in competition
Valencian cyclist Marta Romeu in competition


Gregarios: And looking further ahead in terms of your career? We are in a relatively new situation now, with clear and sustained growth in women's cycling, with more and better races, including the reintroduction of the women's Tour de France, more television coverage, more teams, more money and, without going any further than Annemiek Van Vleuten, against whom you raced in the recent Setmana Valenciana, longer sporting careers. Now that you've gained entry into this world, how far do you see yourself capable of going?
 

MR: I can't truthfully say with any exactitude, simply because I don't know. And that is precisely what I would like to find out. I see myself as able, with the necessary work, to compete in the World Tour, and I would love to be able to do it, to be able to dedicate myself exclusively to cycling for at least a while, and to be able to say to myself, “Yes, I am a cyclist”, but you never know, you never really know if you're good enough. The only way is to try, try to do your best and try to stand out. I never think about DNFing. Never. The World Tour teams are very attentive and always looking for new riders, so you have to try to stand out, catch their attention and make them see that you are worth it. Therefore, first you have to try to get there, which is not guaranteed, and then see if you are really up to it. And as for the type of race, I see myself as more suited to stage races: I am neither the fastest sprinter, or the best climber, nor the best descender. What I am is very regular, I am strong and capable, and those skills are best suited to stage racing. Of course, if I had the opportunity I would love to ride Paris-Roubaix and the other classics sometime, I mean who wouldn't? But I see myself as better suited to stage races. Getting to the World Tour is not easy at all, it is twice the work, twice the effort, everything is much more controlled, measured, but I would like to try it. And if not, there are also other options, such as the long-distance MTB, which is also well suited to my characteristics. But first, I have to try to do my best this year.
 

Gregarios: So, given that you describe yourself as a very strong and very regular rider, how about the idea of ​​competing in one of the ultra-distance races, such as the Transcontinental Race (TCR), from Flanders to the Black Sea, or the Transibérica, which covers the entire Iberian Peninsula? They are not UCI races, but with the growing interest in gravel and long-distance races, they are competitions that already have a certain entity of their own.
 

MR: The races in which you have to take care of yourself, without support or a predetermined route? I would love to, I think they would fit my characteristics very well and I really like the idea of ​​community, of companionship, that goes with this type of race. For example, I really like the idea of ​​the Transpyrenees (TPRN), which crosses the entire Pyrenees from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. It has to be a really cool experience, and hard too, maybe especially so mentally, although obviously I can't do it just now. Later, maybe.

Gregarios: And, given your appetite for long distances, 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? 

MR: Hombre, of course. I'm offended by the doubt (laughs). Without any problem. And I would launch the challenge to two people: my partner, Eric Valiente, who has also competed as a professional and would have no problem completing it either, and my MTB partner, Juanjo Lopez. They are both very fit and both really like long distance rides.

Presentation of Valencia's International Cycling Academy
Presentation of Valencia's International Cycling Academy


Gregarios: And finally, Marta, is there a cause you'd like to take the opportunity to promote?
 

MR: Yes. I am involved in a very cool project for women and cycling, called the International Cycling Academy. It is aimed at providing female Valencian cyclists with an easily-accessible team that is capable of supporting them and helping them grow in areas such as health, values ​​and in learning to be a cyclist. The ultimate goal is to create a solid pool of girls capable of competing throughout Spain and who feel proud to be in a Valencian team. It is a subject that is very important to me and I would love to see it succeed.

Links

Team Farto BTC 

Setmana Ciclista - Volta Comunitat Valenciana Fèmines

Andalucia Bike Race 

RAE (Spanish Royal Academy)

Tour de France Femmes

Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Transcontinental Race (TCR)

Transiberica

Transpyrenees (TPRN)

La Gregarios

International Cycling Academy 

Michael Dixon

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario