It’s all about learning how to switch off in the moments you need to.
In Milan, on the 30th May, Jonathan Castroviejo rolled over the line at the end of his time trial completing his 13th Grand Tour. In that moment his mind switched from concentrating on his own effort to hoping that his teammate, Egan Bernal, would be able to secure the win. There would be plenty of time in the coming weeks to think about taking to the start line of his second Grand Tour of the year, the Tour de France.
The daily grind on a rider’s body over 21 days of racing in a Grand Tour is something most of us find hard to fathom. To race more than one in a year, only weeks apart, is enough to make most riders wince at the thought of 42 days of suffering. But Castroviejo explains that it’s all about knowing how to look after yourself, to make sure that when he turned up in Brest for this year’s Tour de France, there’s not a shadow of a doubt that he was 100% ready to race. If he’s not mentally and physically in a place to be depended upon by his teammates, he’s already failed.
“The first thing I did when I went home after the Giro was to spend time with the family, take a bit of downtime,” Castroviejo says. “I just wanted to spend time with the little ones, playing with them and just being with them. It’s so important to spend time with the family when you’ve been away from them for so long.”
Those first few moments when back home are precious, it’s his time to give back to his family who support him to follow his dreams and the sacrifice that demands upon them. When speaking with Castroviejo it’s clear that wherever he is, or whatever he needs to be doing in that moment in time, he commits to it one hundred percent. The moments that he has with his family, he has to be there with them, fully present, knowing that it won’t be long until he is either back into full training mode or he’s on the road again, especially when a race like the Tour de France is on the horizon.
“Five or six days after I got back from the Giro I had to start thinking about the bike again, and get my head into Tour mode,” he explains.
There are benefits of coming out of one Grand Tour and then planning on being ready for the next one that starts less than four weeks later. “The best thing is not having to go really hard on the training in between, because you’ve already done a whole load of work whilst riding the Giro. It’s more about focusing on your diet and making sure you’re in good health.”
Five or six days after I got back from the Giro I had to start thinking about the bike again, and get my head into Tour mode.
To be in the best form of your life for the biggest race isn’t just about making sure your body is performing to its best ability, Castroviejo explains that you need to make sure your mind has had time to reset. The ability to be able to switch off, and allow the head to relax is just as important, if not more so. This is something that he’s learnt to do with the years of experience he has. He gives his mind time to not think about being on the bike. There has to be days where he doesn’t have to wake up and think about training plans, or what he should and shouldn’t be eating, so when he comes back to training again he feels fresh and ready.
“For me, preparing for a Grand Tour, I really enjoy the training, and that makes a big difference to making sure you arrive in the form you need to be in. It’s also not just about training your body, it’s also about making sure mentally you’re in a good place,” he says.
“You have to know how to relax mentally, and then be able to switch yourself on when you need to, so your mind doesn’t get fatigued. The head is the most important thing, it’s not always easy to get your mind to switch off. This takes some years to learn.”
Castroviejo was first drawn to bike racing, and in particular the Tour, seeing Miguel Indurain race. Those were the moments when he dreamed of one day riding the race himself.
Castroviejo recalls his first memories of riding his first Tour back in 2013, “It was when I was with Movistar and Nairo (Quintana) came second, and wow it was a real battle. Because it was practically just me there helping him, it was a real adventure. The race started in Corsica and I remember that first week was an absolute disaster for us because both of us crashed two or three times. It was my first Tour de France, and it was just full gas. But what a result, with Nairo second on the general classification, as well as taking the young rider’s jersey and the mountain jersey. It was one hell of an experience”.
This Tour de France will be his seventh time participating in the race, and even after having just completed an incredibly successful Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France still ignites that boyhood passion that no other race seems capable of doing.
“It’s the biggest race in the world, you don’t get that “Tour feeling” in any other race. There is so much going on around it. Then when the race enters into the Pyrenees and the Alps, that’s when I really love it, you really get to experience the toughness of the race. It’s those moments of the race that I dreamed about being in when I was young and watching it on TV.”