Jon Aberasturi (Vitoria, 1989) hardly has rest. Two weeks have passed since the end of the Vuelta a España and the Caja Rural preseason will begin in December. Just around the corner. The leading sprinter of the Navarrese squad has just renewed one more season and faces his twelfth season as a professional cyclist with ambition and enthusiasm. “To this day, I have done nothing but improve each year ,” he acknowledges. The Vitorian runner is already a consecrated cyclist. He has experience and, if luck is with him, he will deliver great results for years to come.
What is your assessment of the season? What feelings did you end the year with?
Until La Vuelta a España I was quite satisfied, the results were quite consistent. Yes, I would have liked another victory, perhaps. The Tour of Spain did not turn out the way I expected or the way I wanted because the opportunities we already know are fair. In the end, due to circumstances, I could not achieve what I wanted. All years are not the same and you have to think about next year.
In the Tour of Spain, the truth is that you hardly had the option to fight for the stage victory. What do you think were the reasons for not being able to be ahead: poor positioning, lack of legs or that they were directly faster when sprinting?
It is clear that there is a super high level. I think that in terms of leg performance, I had to have done better one day. For example, on the last day, I did see myself in the top five. Because of the issue of being late, you launch the sprint and have to brake because there is a runner who is hindering you and you do not sprint clean. These are circumstances that happen many times and you have to accept it and think about other future opportunities.
Is the Spanish round choking for you and the team?
Yes, it hasn't been an easy year. In terms of results, last year went very well. In terms of performance, we have had a similar level to the previous season, even better. I do not know if it is because there has been a higher level or is that things have not turned out. I think it was the way to run, to have everything under control, not to let the leaks. In the end, they have been difficult stages to take advantage of an opportunity and fight for victory.
This year you achieved a victory in the first stage of the Tour of Hungary. Do you feel satisfied, or as you told me, not having achieved a victory in the Vuelta leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth?
Above all, on the last day, after so many days suffering for a good result, do not get any of the opportunities, that has been a bit difficult to carry it. But it is a clean slate and to think that next year could turn out much better.
You touched the triumph in Mallorca and at the Getxo Circuit. For trying, he has not stayed for the whole season…
All the opportunities, I have tried to take advantage of them. I have had a great performance. I believe that, from the beginning of the year and until the forced break, when going up the calendar, from the first moment I have been competitive and I have fought with the best. In that sense, I am satisfied that I have felt very competitive throughout the year.
You have just renewed one more season with Caja Rural. Are you comfortable with the Navarrese squad?
Yes, in the end I think it is an agreement that both parties are happy with. I have contributed my level in the massive arrivals and I am also happy because it is a close team, from home, who trust me. Nowadays, as the panorama is in the professional circuit, it is to be appreciated.
What goals do you set yourself for next season?
Get one more victory. I hope we have a normal calendar, from start to finish, without stops, that there is continuity. Then it will be in my hands, not to have bad luck in terms of injuries in falls, in that type of positioning towards the end. Also training, taking care of myself, is part of our work.
Among those objectives, I imagine you want to be present at the Tour of Spain. The team will have to fight hard because the invitation will be quoted next season.
It is positive that there is now a fight because it means that there are more professional teams in Spain and there is more room for runners who are in the amateur field. It is one more motivation for them to have more options all. Today, the opportunities were fair and it was difficult to even pass for professionals. It's fine for that part, but now it's going to be more difficult to choose to run the Tour of Spain. If the invitation is for justice, then I believe that we all started from scratch at the beginning of the year and each one of us has to achieve those results and show that we deserve to go.
You are 31 years old. Would you like to make the leap to the World Tour in the near future?
I never rule it out. It is true that it would be with another mentality. It would be to launch a winner, who has the stripes and the ability to win during the year. What I rule out is going to a World Tour team leading the mass arrivals. Another thing is that, in that role of pitcher, before a born winner, options appear from time to time because he has failed and that sprinter has not arrived or because the arrival is too hard. And, in that sense, I'm getting better and better at those climbs that spike up in the last meters and I've never ruled it out.
Why do you see him with a different mentality and not as a leader? At the end of the day, the experience is a degree and you have matured as a cyclist.
I see it complicated by the level that exists in the young people who have been stomping and in the massive arrivals I would be given better in that role of throwing and leaving that possible winner in the last meters than not having a team at your disposal and playing it at the end. That had to have been a few years before and now I have to have a different mindset. In a category like the one I am in, in Continental Profesional, it is clear that I have to lead, especially in races that do not have that level of a Vuelta a España (World Tour). In the end, the World Tour teams need people who give you the guarantee of winning five or ten stages, which then few do, it is reduced to three or four riders who achieve more than five sprint victories a year. To put a simile, it would be a Maximiliano Richeze, who has the role of launching Fernando Gaviria and then options can always appear. I see more opportunities in those finals that end on slopes of 300/500 meters up to 1 kilometer. I think that little by little I have been specializing and each year I have taken one more step on the climbs. They are those endings that best suit my characteristics today. It is also true that being on the World Tour it is easier for you to position yourself, everyone respects you more, you always have colleagues who can help you until less than 1 kilometer is missing.
Sometimes you have missed that type of runners, pitchers, at Caja Rural.
Yes, many times I have preferred to find my life for myself and I have Having said that they get behind and if in a decisive moment, I need that help, to see if they can give it to me. In the end, like everything else, in lower level races, it is easier to help, but when we race against the best cyclists in the world, it is very difficult.
Do you think that, as a sprinter, there are still things to polish?
Yes, there is always room for improvement. I see that I have a high level, but many times I lack placement. In sprints, 80% is placement. As much as you sprint, especially on flat arrivals, you can go back, but if you are not close to them, it is impossible to win. Almost everything is placement nowadays, especially with the trains that they put, how they are imposed, like the Bora, the FDJ or the Deceuninck, it is impossible. If they are not behind them, giving the surprise or being able to give a scare is very difficult. It is true that if the last meters are up, it gives more options, more room for maneuver and gives you the option to progress further.
We are going to talk about the possible massive arrivals that could have occurred in the last Tour of Spain. For example, in the final stage in Ejea de los Caballeros
That end resembled my characteristics. A very simple finish, which in the last 20km / h hit the wind in the ass and was very easy to wheel with a wide road. At a roundabout, with 2 kilometers to go, I lost positions and was very behind. I had no options to find the gaps to pass. I started to go back with 400 meters to go, but I was way behind. Also, once you go back so far, if you are able to get there, once they launch the sprint, you have practically done that sprint to get there. In the stage in Aguilar de Campoo, it was the opposite. I spent more on the last straight, I wanted to pass a Deceuninck-Quick Step rider, I was close to the fences and in that give and take, at the end the wind was hitting and they are energy-wasting. When the sprint was launched, he no longer had enough power to keep up with them. In Suances, the final slope did not convince me, I saw the distance I had with the percentage and I helped Gonzalo Serrano who could give him better. I calculated that it was going to be an effort of more than two minutes and I thought it was for more people with top speed climbers. On slopes of less than 6%, where riding and positioning does a lot, you don't need to use as much force. In Madrid, I really wanted that day due to the fact that I had been suffering for many days. They were very demanding days and I had been dragging pain in my knee, which I thought I could not finish. Already on the last day, that annoyance disappeared, I did it with all the ambition in the world. I looked very good, but I fell behind again. I wanted to anticipate and when I was very close, that's when people start to bother you. It was a different ending and it narrowed a bit. The speed and inertia I achieved in the last 200 meters was of no use to me. I had to brake and I was locked in.
Days ago you said you had a discomfort, but in the longest day in Puebla de Sanabria, you were sixteenth. You didn't do badly to be a sprinter.
I had the discomfort on the third day at La Laguna Negra. The masseurs treated me. I did several stages well, I passed the rest stage and the Asturian weekend gave me war. In the middle of the Angliru stage, I arrived dragging that annoyance and I saw it wrong. Before the time trial, the sporting director, Xabier Muriel, moved a cleat on my left leg because I don't know if in the fall of Paris-Tours it could have moved a little and moved it to the left. From there, I was able to face the last days better.
Speaking of Alto de L´Angliru, as a sprinter, would you like La Vuelta a España to have more flat stages?
Yes, hopefully. This year there were to be. It started in Holland, there were going to be two flat stages and in Portugal they were easier than the days they set up. This year, in that sense, was a good year. In a Giro or a Tour there are always seven or eight massive arrivals and in La Vuelta three or four. I wish there were seven chances at La Vuelta. They do not have to be massive sprints, at 80 kilometers per hour, since of the seven finishes that you can put in, you can always vary the finals.
Several cyclists have complained that there are stages of 230 kilometers. Are you a fan of this type of stage with this mileage?
Yes, everything has its good and bad points. Such a long stage always gives you more wear and tear for a possible demanding stage the next day, although it is not necessary either. With 200 kilometers it is already good, it is not necessary to pass that barrier of 200 kilometers due to the fact that a shorter stage is often harder, but super intense. In the end, the rhythm that we put influences that not a flat 300 kilometer stage, that a four-runner break is made and you go all day smiling in the peloton. The Puebla de Sanabria stage was tough because from the beginning a leak formed, we reacted because we didn't put anyone in. Then a bigger, quality leak was made, but as it was headwind, there were teams interested in controlling. In the end, you don't want to, we were going very fast all day – and if you add the bad weather with cold and rain – it made it a very tough stage. But if it happened in good weather and with four runners on the run, it wouldn't have been so demanding. It depends on the pace set by the platoon.
Next year you are on your way to your twelfth season as a professional cyclist. At what point in your sports career do you think you are?
At maturity. I have found a level that I see myself competing in almost all arrivals, whether it is a normal or very high level of competitors, giving the surprise at a time that everything goes very well for me. I am aware that it is super difficult, but, for example, in the Volta a Catalunya, in a final that suits me, why can't I win. I have not ruled out a victory on a stage with the best.
The ideal setting would be around the corner from home, La Itzulia. The bad thing about a race for climbers.
Yes, this year if it takes place, I was not going to run it directly because I did not see options in any of the options. And there are usually not, in the end there is usually one and thank you. La Itzulia has a line that all stages have their demands, it is a race for climbers. It's a shame because as a sprinter I have few or no options. For example, if it were Paris Nice, which has several sprints… They are different races.
Is there any way left in your legs?
To this day, I have only improved each year in terms of level and experience gives you a plus too. More professional. At the moment that day has not come when I see the level stagnate or fall. Each one has an expiration date, you have to go year to year.
But don't you see it close?
No, you can always have a very bad year, due to illness or falls. It usually happens that a year of bad luck, of no results and if you have to renew, you can have complications. You always have to keep that in mind as well. If it happens to you with a certain age, the time may come to quit earlier than you thought because you don't have the opportunity to extend another year and regain the lost level.