Tarba (France) David Fernàndez (Palamós, 1974) lives half the year away from home. With a light suitcase of luggage he has traveled all over the world since he started in 1999 with Vitalicio Seguros. The job is explained simply and with great responsibility: cyclists’ bikes must be perfect in order to compete. Each bike is conscientiously prepared with days of between 12 and 16 hours in an excellent teamwork choreography by all the mechanics and assistants before, during and after the race. David does not disconnect from work during the three weeks of competition, as he explains to ARA during the Tour. What he is passionate about in his work is the race, everything that happens in the competition. He doesn’t like what surrounds cycling so much. He prefers to live the stages in the first car, the vehicle that has the most responsibility, the one that has to attend to the cyclists the fastest in the event of a breakdown, fall or puncture. He is the one who has to show his face to try to fix the problem as quickly as possible so that the cyclist can pedal again and not lose much time.
The team are touched, sad, excited. Gino Mäder, the 26-year-old cyclist who died on the lap in Switzerland in mid-June, was supposed to come to the Tour. Mäder was descending at 77 km per hour as he made the perilous descent of the Albula Pass. They tried to resuscitate him for 40 minutes. “It has been a drama, a strong wafer for all. He was an exceptional guy, educated, lover of nature and animals. He was a person. We all loved him very much because he was such a good guy. We miss him a lot.” There is so much work behind a professional cycling team that everything goes too fast and there is no time to assimilate the grief. “We still don’t believe it. When I went to the warehouse to assemble bikes, I found his, which he already had ready to come to the Tour. It’s a stick”, explains the excited David. “Don’t stop to think that we won’t see him again. Which is no longer there. We have their clothes, their bikes. We have his things and we have him in mind. It’s hard to accept that we won’t see him again. It’s hard.”
The entire team left for the return trip to Switzerland. Everyone was undone. The race continued. The following day a non-competitive march for the last 20 kilometers of the stage served to honor Mäder. No one else left the competition. Too many interests in a cycling race. “Surely many of those who stayed would have wanted to leave. But I understand all positions. Who stays and who leaves. We depend on a pattern, like everyone else. And I understand.” In today’s cycling there is more and more preparation and speed. The materials are better, but the shell of it all is the cyclist’s body, which wears a jersey and Lycra shorts.
Safety nets to avoid falling off precipices
Regarding the safety of the cyclists during the competition, they want to put protective nets at certain complicated points of the route to prevent the cyclists from falling down the precipices. “Any positive contribution is necessary for the cyclist and for everyone’s safety”, explains David next to the mechanical truck that takes his team to the Tour. Who wants to put the nets in the complicated bends is Adam Hansen, the new president of the brokers’ union (CPA), who has replaced Gianni Bugno since last March. There is little time left to make major changes, but he has the approval of the cyclists, because they see him predisposed to change. Bahrain Victorious wants the stage triumph in the Tour to dedicate it to the memory of Gino Mäder. In Sunday’s stage in San Sebastià, Pello Bilbao had it close at hand. At the finish line next to the Kursaal the Basque cyclist’s eyes lit up when he talked about his friend. Will try again.
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