Always the joker, Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) had the media and his fellow podium finishers laughing throughout the press conference following the elite men's cross country world championship race last weekend. Hermida had just won the bronze medal.
The 35-year-old fielded the usual question from journalists about his age and how he could continue to compete with his younger rivals.
"I enjoy being with these young guys. It keeps me young," said Hermida before joking, "I know it's not possible to win the world championships at 35, but maybe at 36!" His only elite world championship title so far came in 2010 at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada.
Hermida believes that he has one more Olympic Games in him. He was fourth at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He also competed in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
"My plan is to get qualification for Rio. I will turn 38 and probably be done then. I just have fun on my bike and go year by year."
Hermida spent much of this year's cross country world championship pace chasing eventual winner Nino Schurter of Switzerland. "Nino took his chances and started fast at the beginning, so everyone had to suffer. I tried to keep his pace. I know I'm 35 and my chances to be world champion again are not many. I tried to stay on his wheel, but it was impossible. He killed me in the first lap."
Hermida was passed by silver medallist Manny Fumic, but held on for the bronze. He crossed the line with one hand holding his heart and the other arm raised to the sky.
"That gesture was for Burry Stander and Inaki Lejaretta and all the other cyclists who have been killed while riding on the roads this past year," he said on a more serious note.
Hermida is beloved by South Africans, who know him from the Cape Epic and the World Cups previously held in Pietermaritzburg. When asked if the Worlds in South Africa felt like a home race for him, he joked, "At the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup, I said that Canada feels like my home race. But the World Cup in Andorra is also close to my home. And I like this course too, it's good for me. Every race is like a home race for me."
"I feel comfortable in South Africa. People are open and friendly. I got adopted - I didn't even try. I fell in love with this country. It's always great to come here during a European winter. There's a good philosophy of life and good coffee. I always feel comfortable here."
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