La Purito takes place in Andorra, because that’s where I became a professional cyclist, said Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez

Photo: Anastasia Savateeva

On the 11th of August, Andorra will host the “La Purito Andorra” cycling tour, which is being held for the eighth time this year. Its exciting feature and focus is climbing the six highest points of Andorra (La Rabassa – La Peguera, el Coll de la Gallina, la Comella, la Collada de Beixalís, el Coll d’Ordino и els Cortals d’Encamp). We spoke with the main organiser of the race, Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez, ex-captain of the Russian cycling team Katusha, about cycling and its development during these eight years.

Interview: Irina Rybalchenko, Anastasia Savateeva

Eight years ago, we spoke to you on the eve of the first La Purito race, and at that time 3 different difficulty courses were proposed: 30 kilometres, 85 kilometres and 145 kilometres with 1,300 participants, including professional and amateur cyclists. What about this year?

The course points remain the same, but we have changed the itinerary because the infrastructure of the whole country is so crowded a huge number of cyclists for the event.

We will start from the lower elevation locations so that we can be in the upper ones by midday in order to relieve the traffic.

We have reduced the kilometres of the route a bit. We have reduced the most difficult one from 145 kilometres to 115 kilometres. However, we have increased the number of participants from 1,300 to 2,000.

Although the shortest itinerary is only 30 kilometres, which is hardly suitable for debutants, right?

Yes, all the routes are very difficult. But after all, it’s not a race… It’s more of an overcoming circuit than a competition. La Purito has made a name for itself as a hard cycling tour, not only in Andorra but also internationally.

What can you say about the development of cycling in these eight years? Has the level of cyclists increased?

Andorra is a country of cyclists and it has evolved a lot in the last 5-6 years. There are now more than 130 professional cyclists living and training in Andorra, and that’s great!

There are also several new teams, such as AndDona for example, which are attracting more cycling events to the country.

Has the ratio of men to women in cycling changed?

Yes, there are significantly more women – the ratio is about 50/50 nowadays.

How much does it cost to participate this year?

There are three options. The first one is 60 euros and the most expensive is 80 euros. We are interested in cyclists registering as early as possible, so we offer a discount. It would be optimal for us if all 2,000 participants registered for 60 euros. A cycling suit is a must for participation and we need time to prepare the right number of sizes.

What is the economic impact of this event?

It is difficult to say what the profit will be because I am not in the business of estimating how much we earn. Let’s say a participant pays 60 euros. If we calculate all the costs, it turns out that we spend more than the cost of registration. We have sponsors who make a significant contribution. Andbank, for example, has been and still is our main sponsor since the first year of the event, and there are other sponsors among the sports brands.

Are you planning to organise La Purito in Spain, France or other countries?

No, La Purito takes place in Andorra, because that’s where I became a professional cyclist.

Any advice on how to get better prepared for La Purito?

Obviously, you need regular hours of training because we have a very, very long and difficult course. It doesn’t seem like that in kilometres, but in hours it will probably work out to be about six and a half or seven. There is no flat terrain in the mountains, the whole itinerary is either up or down.

How do you plan to further develop cycling in Andorra?

I have a cycling school in Escaldes with about 145 children at the moment. It’s a difficult sport for young people because of the the terrain, but we’re doing our best. In this sense, if the cycle paths near the schools were all safe, flat, well-lit, and met the needs of the youngest ones, it would be very useful. Terrassa or Sabadell are good examples: there are two-kilometer cycle paths where children can be trained. A velodrome would also be very useful, especially because we would be opening up another form of cycling in Andorra.

What is the best age to start cycling?

There are no age limits or requirements to start cycling. My son and my daughter started very early. But they didn’t like it, and that’s okay! It is a very challenging and beautiful sport, but you have to enjoy it!

How popular is cycling in general today, from your point of view?

The profession of cycling used to look a bit strange. Now there is a global cycling community that is growing strongly, which is very positive. And here in Andorra, I’ve noticed it too.

And in terms of materials used, how advanced are the bike brands?

I ride on a bike whose brand is my sponsor. But I think it’s very difficult to distinguish one brand from another now because they are all at a very high level.

Do you follow any kind of sports diet?

Not anymore. Cycling is not a profession for me anymore – I just do it for fun.

Do you do practice other sports?

I swim, I go to the gym, I like to do a little bit of everything.

What are your favourite cycling routes in Andorra and Spain?

Here in Andorra, I really enjoy Vall d’Incles because it’s a very quiet and calm area, without steep climbing, so it’s not too difficult. I think this is where you can enjoy the most beautiful views in Andorra.

As for overall in Spain, since we don’t have a beach here, I like to ride along the coast. For example, the road around Tossa del Mar, where you pedal and look at the sea that is close by. It’s not like the mountains – these roads are different and in their own way very beautiful.

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