Interview with Pascual Momparler, Spanish National Cycling Coach

Pascual Momparler, Spanish National Cycling Coach

Interview with Pascual Momparler (Villanueva de Castellón, Valencia, 1982), Spanish national cycling coach.

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 16/03/22, which you can read here: entrevista con seleccionador nacional Pascual Momparler.

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. 

The son of a keen cyclist father, Pascual Momparler Guardiola (Villanueva de Castellón, Valencia, 1982) has held the position of national road cycling and cyclocross coach since 2018, following spells as national Junior, U-23 road and cyclocross coach, and second in command to the previous Spanish coach, Javier Mínguez. 

Pascual Momparler, Spanish National Cycling Coach
Pascual Momparler, Spanish National Cycling Coach<
 

He organizes the U-23 Memorial Pascual Momparler road race in honor of his father, and the elite men's professional UCI Europe Tour 1.1 Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior, which successfully held its first edition on Valentine's Day 2022, and is behind the first cyclocross World Cup event to be held in Valencia, which will take place in Benidorm on January 22, 2023

Gregarios: Good morning, Pascual, it's a pleasure to talk to you. Many of our readers will know your name from your work with the national team, but they may not know your history within this sport, so could you first please tell us a little about yourself and how you became involved in the world of cycling. 

PMG: My love of cycling comes from my father, who was crazy about it. He competed at Masters level, organized races, and he was the one who took me out on my first rides. I would have been about 5, 6 years old, and we would go out through the Costera area in the south of the province of Valencia, through Xátiva, to places near the town. Later, on my own, I began riding further afield, towards Alcoy, the coast, and so on, until today. It all started with my father. 

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”? 

PMG: Being a gregario is to have a passion for teamwork, for contributing 100% to a teammate's victory and experiencing that victory as your own. It requires a capacity for sacrifice, which is sometimes difficult to achieve within a team since it is logical that each rider tends to have an eye on their own opportunities. However, it is essential for success and, when you manage to create that spirit within a team it is the most beautiful thing in cycling. 

Pascual Momparler with members of the Spanish national team
Pascual Momparler with members of the Spanish national team
  

Gregarios: Focusing a bit on the cycling scene in Spain, the RFEC (Royal Spanish Cycling Federation) is tasked with promoting grassroots cycling in Spain. How do you see the structure of the lower categories in Spain today, and do you think today's young people have the necessary opportunities and encouragement to join the cycling community, both in terms of competition and as a physical activity? 

PMG: It's a difficult task because, if you want to, you can come up with a lot of arguments against cycling: the cost of a bike itself, the scarcity of dedicated cycling academies, the work involved for parents in taking young people to races, and the fear they may have of their children cycling on the open roads, for example. There are many reasons, and yes, it is true that football is cheaper and has easier entry points. That is why the support of the public administrations and institutions is very important when it comes to promoting cycling, to educating people about cycling culture, and I don’t mean only in relation to competition.

It is a slow process, and in Spain we are lagging somewhat behind in this aspect compared to other neighboring countries, but the Federation is now doing a great job with women’s cycling, with schools, with children, facilitating the entry of these groups into cycling. A great opportunity has presented itself recently for the elderly and people who were perhaps not used to cycling so much before in the form of e-bikes, which is bringing about an enormous change since it helps people to see the bicycle as a viable, alternative form of transport.

You can see this a lot in the city of Valencia, where the change in cycling culture has been profound in recent years. As I say, it is a slow process, or rather it’s slower than we would like, but the Federation is working on it.

Gregarios: More specifically in relation to your work as national coach, in recent decades Spain has enjoyed what we could label a golden age in cycling, during which its cyclists have consistently performed at the very highest level, especially in road racing. With the upcoming retirement of Alejandro Valverde, in a way the country is finally saying goodbye to an entire generation of cyclists that has only ever known the enormous popularity that competitive cycling has enjoyed in Spain since the successes of Delgado, Indurain, Barcelona '92, etc. It has seemed at times that the only acceptable outcome was victory. Looking towards the future, where do you see Spain’s best opportunities to improve and stand out again as a leading cycling nation?

PMG: Interestingly, it seems that the scale of the success of these cyclists has meant that their achievements perhaps haven’t been truly appreciated as much as they deserve, at least in Spain. It’s true, we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, that of those you mentioned, and others as Escartín, Freire, Sastre, Purito Rodríguez, naturally Valverde, and many, many more, so much so that perhaps it has not been sufficiently appreciated. It’s curious, but I would also say that something similar has happened in other sports, with Nadal, for example, in tennis, or Alonso in Formula 1. They have all been exceptional, and we should appreciate their success as such. Now it's time to focus on the next generation, which is made up of very good cyclists who are surely destined to write great pages in the history of cycling. Of that I have no doubt. Will we always win? No, of course not, it’s not possible, but we nevertheless have to value the excellent work they do.  

Pascual Momparler cycling
The busy coach still finds time whenever possible to cycle himself

Gregarios: You recently organized the first edition of the Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior, which was met with a very positive reception among cycling fans both inside and outside of Spain. Was it "easy" to convince those responsible for the Jaén Provincial Council, the event’s sponsors, of the publicity benefits that the staging of the race in the area would generate for Jaén? In other words, was it easy to “sell” the race? And do you see a lot of potential in Spain for the development of more races of this type? 

PMG: Well, the Jaén Provincial Council must receive a multitude of offers and proposals every single day, so it is normal that at the beginning you have to put some work in to convince them of the value of your project. That’s normal. It’s true that at first they didn't quite see it as clearly as we did, but they came to understand the tremendous media impact of the Strade Bianche for Tuscany, and they saw that we could do something similar in Jaén, and in the end we had their full support. They understood the high ROI that cycling provides, both inside and outside of Spain, and its ability to help in the promotion of a region. We had a very good response from the teams as well, which certainly helped us. In fact, all those involved have already shown their interest in next year's edition. The difficulties actually came from other factors associated with the novelty of organizing this type of race: for example, the Civil Guard is not authorized to patrol this type of unsurfaced road on their motorcycles, which of course we didn’t know beforehand. Things like that present new challenges of a type that you don’t come across when organizing "normal" races. As for the possibility of organizing other races of this type in other parts of Spain, it is clear that there is an enormous potential, and I hope that the Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior will serve as a stimulus for more races to be organized. 

Gregarios: You spend your time organizing other people’s time on the bike, but how about yourself? Do you go out on your bike a lot? 

PMG: Unfortunately, not as much as I would like. I try to go out on Saturdays with friends, and on Sundays with my wife, but of course it depends on my work.

Pascual Momparler driving
Momparler is already looking ahead to next year's edition of the Clásica Jañen Paraíso Interior

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? 

PMG: Well, it’s funny you should ask, as I have in mind the idea of ​​taking my bike and going on a very long ride with my wife, maybe off-road or along the greenways, from my home in Jaén, for example, up to Valencia. Something that would allow me to disconnect a little and notch up kilometers, so the idea could well interest me, as long as there isn’t a time cut, a limit. I’m not in a hurry. So, if I’ve got all day to do it and I can fit it in, I’d love to do it. And if I couldn't do it, I would nominate my cousin, Vicent Bravo, @vicentbravo, who is also heavily involved in cycling and who gets out far more than me, so I’m sure he could do it without problems. 

 

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Michael Dixon

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