Portuguese rider visits Madrid barely 24 hours after confirmation of his signing with Movistar Team; remains committed to team's global success as he looks to find his strongest points inside the WorldTour's top-ranked squad
Despite a very early start to his Thursday -a 450km road trip, from his home in Viseu to Spain’s capital city, was waiting for him-, you couldn’t stare at Nuno Bico without finding a smile on his face while meeting his new squad, the Movistar Team, for the first time. A short visit to Madrid, in order to get his Canyon training bikes and undergo the traditional photoshoot for all members, just two weeks prior to the official start of the 2017 season for the Blues.
“It was a bit maddening, this long wait. I knew I had worked all throughout the 2016 season, and having done all things right, it was hard not to get a WorldTour spot for next season. I felt like I deserved it. Yet, no opportunity was coming. In the end, it all turned out well. And I couldn’t feel happier about this moment”, admits the 22-year-old from Portugal, whose long name requires a quick explanation for non-Portuguese speakers: Nuno Miguel are his first names; then, Bico as father last name; Alves from his mother; and Matos at the end, again from his father.
Following a three-year stay at José Santos’ Radio Popular continental squad, Bico landed in the Klein Constantia team in 2016. One of the biggest development teams in Europe, its recent disbandment did not prevent 12 of its 13 riders from securing a pro contract for 2017 (five, as Nuno did, into WorldTour outfits). “Individual-wise, we all were really strong: every single rider into the team could win or at least contest victory at many races. During the pre-season training camps, we really got on well with each other and forged an excellent team spirit. Maybe I was feeling more at ease with Enric Mas, as we both spoke the same language, but I was happy with everyone. And that pays off a lot into races.”
That squad claimed overall success in no less than five stageraces: the Volta ao Alentejo -which Bico finished in 7th place-, the Carpathian Couriers race, the Tour of Berlin and the French Tours of Savoie and Alsace. At most of them, Nuno, reigning Portuguese U23 road race champion at the time, was present and played a massive supporting role for his team-mates. He’s not a laggard who rejects to help others out when needed. “You look at the start list in every race and it becomes clear that, should you focus on a certain team-mate, a victory or a top-3 finish are all but certain. And to me, the most important thing is getting your team to success. It’s crucial in the team’s dynamics: if one of your team-mates takes the win after everyone worked hard, the whole team is happy. Riders, sports directors, team staff… a victory achieved by everyone makes everyone stronger. Sometimes you have to rule out personal success and push for others to achieve it.”
That approach remains intact as he joins Eusebio Unzué’s team. “I was even more keen to do what Eusebio required from me than himself. He wants me to show dedication, professionalism, get on well with the others, and work as hard as possible for the group.” And above all, define himself as a rider and search for goals. “I’m also wondering to myself what I will become. I’m not an A-plus rider at any discipline, and I wouldn’t dare to say I’m even an A-minus at a specific one. I can climb well, yet I’m not the best climber; I’m strong on the flat, yet I’m not the best rouleur; at the cobbled classics this season I managed well through, yet I’m far from being a specialist… I just hope to find my place and gain experience to see how far I can reach.”
So, what does Bico dream of? The Portuguese rider, a true polyglot – “My mom got be into English schools from elementary to 18 years old; I learnt Spanish for five years there, as a mandatory third language; and I improved my French all over the last season thanks to Rémi Cavagna, my room-mate within the team” – keeps his feet down to earth well more than he did when he joined the Continental peloton. “Few years ago, I only dreamt about the Tour, and that’s because it’s the race of a lifetime for nearly every cyclist. However, one of the things I learnt during 2016 is that there are many one-day or one-week races full of talented rivals and rich history. Doing well into Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège… is as prestigious as it is to do well in the Tour. Also the Vuelta, the Giro… all of those have their magic. My wish to ride and win the Tour might have faded a bit, it’s true – now I’ve found many places where I’d like to shine in cycling.”