Paula Patiño: Getting used to European-style racing as a Latin American rider

7 June 2019
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Movistar Team Blogs

She’s been one of the most improved riders from the Telefónica-backed squad in 2019, yet the previous years weren’t easy for the La Ceja native. We hear from one of the biggest Latin talents in the sport about her path towards WorldTour racing with the Movistar Team.

Every rider -and that includes both genders- knows that getting to Europe and adapting yourself to how things work here when you’re not from the continent is not an easy task. It’s a school, one which requires – other than talent – loads of discipline, dedication and perseverance. It’s not enough to be good at what you do to become an elite athlete. And that sentence is even more important when you’re part of the women’s peloton, even more so when you’re Colombian – which involves a lifestyle quite different to the one in Europe. You land in another country with just 17 years old and you face a completely new reality: places, people, language, weather – all different, so far away from home, and into a competitive environment which is completely the opposite to what I had been racing at in my home country.

My first stop was Switzerland, more specifically the UCI World Cycling Centre. The most prestigious vivarium for young riders, the place where I started improving as a rider – and as a person, too. Many think that the fact of being admitted to there already makes things easy-peasy – yet does anyone wonder about the sacrifice, everything you’ve got to face when you enter in such a world, when you tackle such a challenge?

Patiño during her stay in the UCI World Cycling Centre. (c) Velofocus

The first race I took part in was in France, and it was there where I felt, for the very first time, I wouldn’t be able to finish a race. I had crashed, head-on, against the real notion of cycling: racing at -3ºC, under the rain, for the entire event. My body was soaked, frozen, even if I was wearing all foul weather clothes I had. I got to a point where I couldn’t brake, nor eat, because I couldn’t move my hands.

Lots of thoughts come through your mind in such a moment: you’re desperate, you feel helpless, you just want to give up. However, at the back of your heart, there’s another feeling which asks you to keep fighting, at least a bit more. Eventually, almost unable to speak and with some tears of pain coming to your face, I found satisfaction in being able to cope with such pain and not surrendering. Since that moment, I only thought about the next race, and my will to overcome all other barriers which I found.

There were days of pure exhaustion, at both races and training rides. Those moments when you think if you will make it through, wondering if you’re in the right place. Even if those days were hard, I continued to fight strong. As soon as I got a bit more experienced about the sport in Europe, as well as many other things, I saw my body steadily changing, getting used better to weather conditions, to the efforts I made day by day, and I found a way to recover better and better. Yet to achieve it, I also needed to rest well, and take care of my nutrition, to have my body and mind synchronized.

Her best international result so far: 5th at the toughest stage of the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour. (c) Velofocus

Nowadays, that school of extreme weather, lonely days, pain, desire of not carrying on, has all helped me make one of my biggest dreams come true: being part of a WorldTour roster. And I achieved it into one of the best, most prestigious squads in the world, the Movistar Team. Seeing myself here, surrounded by so many things which seemed far from reach not long ago, I think to myself that everything I did, the sacrifices, the distance from home, the loneliness away from my family, those difficult moments which leave its mark on you – they’re all rewarded and come to fruition here.

I continue to learn today, because learning is just like cycling: you never stop rolling, it’s a daily process. It’s never going to stop being hard and difficult, yet it’s all worth, and I enjoy it a lot. I continue to group by the side of this family, which opened its doors to me so I could keep chasing my dreams.

— Follow Paula at her profiles on Instagram and Twitter.

Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport