He is the figure of cyclocross in Spain, now that it is booming, and he knows it. This is attested to by the five consecutive Spanish championships that he has celebrated -the last one last weekend in Vic (Barcelona)-, as well as his usual top-10 in the World Cup races and his sub-23 world sub-championship. It is Felipe Orts (Villajoyosa, Alicante; 27 years old), who competes under the Burgos-BH road jersey, although he gives absolute priority to the winter calendar because his thing is mud and occasionally putting the bike on his shoulder. This Sunday, in the race in Benidorm, the penultimate leg of the Cyclocross World Cup, he will do it again, although he will compete against the best, confirmed the best possible trio: the Dutch Mathieu Van der Poel, the Belgian Wout Van Aert and the English Tom Pidcock.
Question. How did you get your passion for cycling?
Reply. Well, I don’t really know because nobody in my house was a fan. But I liked riding and at the age of seven I enrolled in a school where they soon told me that I could do races at my level. My mother did not like the idea, that she competed so small. But I did it and I won it. And there I continue.
Q. But he dedicated himself to cyclocross… Didn’t he want to emulate Armstrong or the current Tour winner?
R. Well not much. I always liked the circuit better. I remember that I loved watching the races that the coach put us on VHS. I wanted to do that. And over time, since I didn’t want to be stopped in winter, I became more fond of mud, technical and explosive races. At first three races, then others, then through the Basque Country and finally through Belgium. But it wasn’t until the sub-23 world championship that I considered dedicating myself to this. There the story changed; Opportunities began to appear.
Q. There aren’t many Spaniards who can make a living from cyclocross, right?
R. I imagine Kevin Suárez, Lucía González and me. Not many more…
Q. Why does that happen when it is a sport that is having so much acceptance abroad?
R. The issue of the teams is not being worked on much and there is not much financial support or from the federations. And that is a slab because outside of here the rivals are professionals. We lack tradition and enthusiasm. Although I think the situation is changing in Spain because we have 15 major events and the Benidorm race has also been created worldwide.
Q. Do you have your share of’fault’?
R. I think so. In a way I feel a bit responsible because I am at the head of the Spanish cyclocross at its best. But that is also a burden, being at the top of the sport. A positive charge, of course; it is a pride.
Q. He is so good that Burgos-BH, a UCI Pro Team road team, signed him three seasons ago…
R. I am a good investment and the team lets me know that. It is true that I go to a road race and try to do my best, but we all know that cyclocross is my thing and that they signed me for the winter. My preseason is atypical for a road team because I don’t do as many kilometers nor do I have to endure without spending too much, but rather my training sessions are very short and explosive because you lose shape little by little and in all the races you go to the maximum. But it is true that because I am in a road team I have won in depth and I usually reach the end of the race well and climb positions.
Q. You like to suffer, don’t you?
R. A little, yes. This is cyclocross. But I’m good at it because I’m technical and skilled. I fail very little with the bike and in the complicated areas I gain a lot of time. And the difficulty is multiplied if there is mud. I think technically I have nothing to envy anyone. It is showing that those of us who come from cyclocross are very complete and that we can also do a good job on the road. The most significant cases are Van der Poel, Van Aert and Pidcock, who even win stages in the Tour and classics.
Q. If they run, the podium is further away, right?
R. They are extraordinary. They have unusual physical conditions and it is exaggerated at the speed they roll. And, in addition, they know how to put the bike in the right place at that speed… It’s tremendous! There are few better than them in cycling. If they run, you know they are almost certainly going to win. But thanks to them, cyclocross has risen so much. They give wings to this sport.
Q. Those wings you already have in Belgium or the Netherlands?
R. There they have found the model. They have races in all the big cities and that day people go there, to drink a few beers and eat chips, to see the runners. It is the plan of the day.
Q. Now it will be in Benidorm… What does it mean to have a World Cup race at home?
R. What happens in Benidorm will determine if it is a great sport or if it remains for four fans. But I know that a great event is being set up and I suppose that it will give a lot of return. Those who come will not regret it because they will see a lot of stars and they will discover a modality that really engages.
Q. It is also a sport in which there is a lot of contact…
R. It is normal because in the mud you can lose control. It happens to everyone. There are also areas where you can stick your elbows or the bike, but up to a certain point. There is a lot of respect and sportsmanship among the runners because if one day you are dirty the next they will do it to you. I have never had a clash and I remember few times in which someone has been sanctioned.
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