Alberto Gallego, like any cyclist, admires runners like Alejandro Valverde, although he would not define him as a reference. That term is perhaps reserved for his father, a ‘Sunday’ cyclist who was the one who made him get on a bicycle at the age of 12 from which he has not gotten off even in the worst moments. The 31-year-old cyclist from Dombenita grew up in the Peña Ciclista Guadiana and now returns to enjoy, as a veteran, on Radio Popular de Portugal.
–How did your relationship with cycling begin?
–At 12 years old because I saw my father going out on a bike ride with Carlos Cuadrado ‘father’, who has since passed away. The bicycle always caught my attention, although not with the intention of competing. I started in childhood with the Peña Ciclista Guadiana with a small road bike, so we trained around Feval, it was like another extracurricular activity.
–When does it start to get serious?
–Little by little you are participating in races and I was there until I was a youth, also passing through the Monteoro Cycling School in Mérida. At first he was very bad, he pedaled for the sandwich they gave after the races. In the cadet category I almost always went to the mountain races, which are the ones I liked the most, and I still like them; But in youth I trained more seriously and in my second year I did have some good results in Mérida.
–And then comes the jump.
–I went to what is the good step, Sub23, and I was lucky enough to be a misfortune for Extremadura, who went down from professionals to amateurs and I was able to rejoin. The first years were hard, working a lot for my colleagues, but they were also very good years and I think very necessary because they train you a lot. Now the age has been lowered a lot, which is good, but there is a lack of experience for this training that is so important for cycling. At this stage, there was a year in which Daniel Sánchez and I went to Andalusia that had a professional team, we had a good year, but the next year the team disappeared, losing the opportunity to go professional. Then we returned to Extremadura.
–A year and a half later, he arrived in Portugal as a professional.
–With today’s perspective, the jump came late, because right now the jump to professional takes place much earlier; but then it was normal. Perhaps now they are going prematurely, although there are some cases in which the physique accompanies the head, but not all of them are Pogacar, Remco, Ayuso… Those are exceptional cases. I don’t start out as a child thinking that I’m going to make a living doing this. But right now, I don’t get on the bike thinking about an economic result as such, anyone who does that in any sport does it badly.
–The next thing was the Caja Rural and the sanction.
–They were good years, with great evolution. Several offers came in, but the best was from Caja Rural for two years. Then what happened happened. It was a bad stage, although looking at those four years overall it wasn’t that bad either because you learn by working, without ever giving up the bicycle. I continued without any objective, although José Santos, the director of Portugal, gave me his confidence, but it was many years. Then Alfonso Rodríguez and his son kept me excited about going to the races even though I was a mechanic. I learned a lot about cycling, but also to value things that I didn’t value.
–How was the return in 2020?
–When I returned to Portugal the pandemic came, last year was also very irregular and I only felt well from mid-summer onwards, perhaps because of the training load and because the team didn’t work very well either. This year the injury makes me angry because here in Alentejo everything was already going well with a great team.
–How do you face the season?
–I am now 31 years old and my ideas are clear, for me the important thing is the team. If an opportunity presents itself at any stage, I will try, but teamwork prevails like everything in life.
–In this career, what values has cycling brought you?
–A lot of perseverance and resilience, but the fundamental thing would be that teamwork. If I win, it’s not ‘Alberto Gallego has won’, the entire team has won. He never wins a single one. Cycling is a sport in which the entire team is vital, it seems that each one makes their war, but everyone pedals. For both mountain and sprint stages there are strategies and ways of working, whoever wins is because he has expressed that strategy better or worse.
–He also debuts as sports director.
–I want to make the most of what I have left on the bike year after year, but you always have to think about the future. I haven’t done it to dedicate myself to it, but you never know.
–From that perspective, what is the situation like in Extremadura?
–Above all, you have to look at the youth team, from the youth category, because you have to let them enjoy themselves. We have, for example, Pablo Lospitao who is at a perfect age, but we have to be very calm and follow his evolution. I pay a lot of attention, not only because of that figure of sports director, but because I love cycling both outside and in Extremadura even more so. I am very excited to see it, but I am also very sad that there is little quarry.
–What advice can you give to a young cyclist?
–Enjoy it, although it is very easy to say it and the difficult thing is to do it day by day. But don’t lose that motivation to take it as a game, something that is not obligatory or a routine, even that you can train with people your age. And, of course, that it always goes hand in hand with continuing to study, even if at this moment you don’t know why. May the good results not cloud your vision. I forced myself to study and a blessed obligation, but it was complicated and it still is now because at a certain level you already have little time and in that little time you are tired and you also have to live.
–Do you still have any reference?
–Any cyclist who stands out and, as they say in our field, who rides so much. Valverde is unique, but he is a reference for any cyclist in the world, including the new generations… I like cycling more and more, something that I didn’t when I was little, it was my father who used it, but it didn’t even catch my attention, Now it’s getting more and more, I finish training and start cycling more.