At 40 years old, Iñigo Cuesta isn't planning on retiring any time in the near future and after starting his 16th Vuelta a España last September, the man from Villarcayo recently said he wants to ride more editions of his national tour.
"Hopefully, at age 41 I will be there [at the Vuelta]. I have a contract with Cervélo for next year and if the team wants, I will return to the Vuelta; then, after 2010, I'll probably continue for longer, although so far nothing is definite," Cuesta told Spanish sports daily Marca. "People talk about the record of participations in the Vuelta and, although 16 is just a number, I realise that there's some importance in it," he added.
The evergreen Cuesta has started the Spanish grand tour 16 times - a record - having made his Vuelta debut in 1994, riding for the Euskadi-Petronor squad. He's ridden for the Basque team during his career, plus the O.N.C.E outfit, Cofidis, Saunier Duval-Prodir, CSC and now Cervélo. His ride in this year's Vuelta broke the record of 15 held by Fede Etxabe, although he's not content to leave the mark at 16 for long.
"I am fortunate to be able to do what I like and what I had always dreamed [of doing]," said Cuesta. "What more can I ask? When you're doing well, you don't think about your age, because the key is not age but what's in the head," he explained. "I don't think I am 40 years old, but more about what's best for training, for resting... Maybe, it's a somewhat unusual case, because there aren't many riders who, at my age, still remain in the peloton," he added.
Cuesta's approach is simple - enjoy every day on the bike as much as possible and remember the reasons why he began the sport. It's a large contributing factor to his longevity in cycling. "I maintain the illusion of the first day [on the bike] and so far I can still easily go out and train. On the contrary, I am enjoying the bike. Sometimes I say that I 'look like a kid'.
"And yes, I feel that way when I train because in this sport if you're not careful, you have nothing to do. We must be professional and, like any other job, do our best," he explained.
The other reason he has been riding at the highest level for so long is because his mentality to teamwork correlates to that encouraged by some of the world's best teams. Therefore he's invaluable to any manager who needs a man to get the hard jobs done. "The first thing to know is that cycling is a team sport. And a few days working for each other, for others," said Cuesta. "Success is the result of the work of many people, not just winning."
This paradigm in Cuesta's professional life was fostered early in his career, as he recalled: "I remember going up to Sierra Nevada, Peio [Cabestany Ruiz, Euskadi team captain] began to feel ill and I had to stay with him, beside him. So they gave me freedom to go forward. There I realised what I know about this sport and life, because overnight everything can change. It shouldn't be forgotten: one day you're in front and another behind. But we must not surrender."
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