Pogacar is in the hands of ‘Papi’ | Cycling | Sports


Joseba Elguezabal poses from the UAE bus.volta catalonia

For Tadej Pogacar, massage sessions after races or training camps always have to be wrapped in music, with Eminem and Snoop Dogg mainly, but also with Slovenian songs. He likes rap more than anything, and to make him angry, his trusted masseuse, Joseba Elguezabal (Gatika, Vizcaya; 42 years old), Kapo for almost everyone, from time to time itches him with a little reggaeton, lyrics that squeak. to the leader of the Volta. Although in one of those, the nickname with which he affectionately calls his physio came out: Daddy. The friction makes the love.

For Joseba, cycling was more than just a hobby, since he always rode as a child even if he had no opportunity to dedicate himself to it. So he worked in factories, on the farm with his father and with a tractor, and also as a nightclub bouncer in Bilbao. But he did not satisfy him nor did he like it, so he needed a change of heart in his life. Opportunity given to him by the cyclist Julen Zubero, who was at Seguros Bilbao and told him that they had a vacancy as a physio. “I applied myself, studied hard and found my place,” he recalls. From there he went to Caja Rural and in 2019 he joined the UAE. Precisely, at the same time as Pogacar, with whom he teamed up in the Vuelta a España that year, third after the finish line in Madrid. “Since then he said that he wanted to work with me and the management saw that it was a good formula, so we are always together,” he resolves. They are like flesh and blood, since there is no concentration or race in which Joseba does not have Tadej in his hands, about 210 days a year. Or, what is the same, about 12,500 minutes per course. “Before, it didn’t affect me to be away from home for so long, but I had a child 14 months ago and now it’s a little more difficult for me…” he says.

After a race, Pogacar requires 50 minutes of treatment. “We work the whole body, diaphragm, chest, hands, legs, head… Everything,” she says. Although the cyclist, who this year will face the challenge of the Giro and the Tour, capable of attacking where others cannot even imagine, of pushing ahead of the peloton without being hunted, of chaining show after show, he has something different. “Yes, it is special. All the cyclists on the team are elite runners, but when you have Tadej in your hands you realize that he is different, that he has very little muscle fatigue, that a hard stage or time trial does not affect him as much. That is his greatest strength,” explains Joseba, who is still surprised by the cyclist’s recovery capacity; “After the climb to Vallter -second stage of the Volta-, with rain and alone after attacking, he lay down on the stretcher and within a minute he was already recovered. Is incredible”. That is why Joseba understands that if anyone can face the challenge of the double grand tour, it is Pogacar. “But I don’t talk much about cycling, what am I going to say to number one?” He says while shrugging his shoulders. His conversations revolve around families, forbidden food during competition days and even Spanish and Basque classes, also about each person’s hobbies. Pogacar loves cars and Joseba loves horses, a devotion that the Slovenian saw firsthand after finishing the last Tour, as he went to the physio’s house to see the English thoroughbred that he had just bought. “I am preparing him for Basque sports, for drag, for shooting, it is a modality that has a lot of fans in Euskadi,” he points out with pride. The horse, of course, is called Pogi.

But at the moment they are not placing bets on how good the animal will be, since Pogacar has vetoed that route until it completes the one it lost after the first Tour. “We bet that if he won it, we would bike from Bilbao to Paris,” reveals Joseba; “but because of the covid, the birth of my son… It is still pending. Although I will do it, I am from Bilbao and my word goes to death.” In the meantime, however, they will continue working together and celebrating the Slovenian’s laurels. “It’s not very emotional. If he wins he is happy, but it is nothing excessive, and if he loses he does not sink. He is very stable emotionally. His other strong point,” the physio slides. Although he will always remember the day when, without saying a word, he gave him a heartfelt hug, almost with tears falling from his eye sockets: “It wasn’t with any Tour or anything, because there it was already believed that he could win.” . It was after winning in Flanders, it is the victory that touched him the most.”

On the way to winning the Volta, also looking forward to the horizon, the difficult undertaking of the Giro and the Tour, Pogacar is calm, he knows that he is in good hands, in those of Daddy.

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