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Humans of La Vuelta, Speaker & Moderator: ‘Despite having a lot of visibility, I am a very shy person’

By Františka Blažková

La Vuelta a España is an icon of professional road cycling. It’s unpredictable, gripping, captivating, and stands out in the cycling world as a testament to endurance, passion, and spirit. But not solely on the riders’ side. This year, we got closer to the inner workings of La Vuelta than ever before with a single goal: to show the immense amount of behind-the-scenes organisational efforts that need to go into the entire event to make it happen. We want to highlight the mostly invisible hardships of people who are at the backbone of the race and rarely get any airtime.

Several select few, holding various roles and positions from across La Vuelta, kindly gave us their time and answered a series of questions to let us peek behind the curtains at what it truly feels like to be a piece in the massive puzzle of La Vuelta a España. Meet Juan Mari Guajardo. Mr. Guajardo is a seasoned La Vuelta Speaker and Moderator at the departure village, at signature control and also at the finish line.

As a Speaker and Moderator, he plays an instrumental role in ensuring audiences remain engaged and informed. Guajardo’s preparation is rigorous, taking an entire year as he reflects on previous competitions’ results. “In the last month,” he said, “I focus ultimately on the start and finish of each upcoming stage, how many times the Vuelta has been there, who has won and how.” A typical day at La Vuelta is intense. It begins early with personal exercise, followed by a three-hour lead time at the start line. Here, he reviews the previous day and then initiates team presentations, the cutting of the tape, and an exhilarating rush to narrate the final race kilometres and create an electrifying atmosphere for the audience.

Amidst the tight schedules, Guajardo is disciplined in preserving his voice. “I sleep about eight hours but I do spend as much time as possible in the room. The more hours I am quiet, the better my throat rests,” he said. Which is not an easy task while averaging 100 km and three hours in the car during a single race day. This dedication becomes evident when we learn of the immense trust riders place in him. Having witnessed their journeys from fledgling talents to seasoned champions, the bond is deep and mutual.

On a more personal note, two aspects that Guajardo believes surprise many are the extensive information he possesses about riders and locations – and his inherent shyness, despite his pivotal visibility. And when asked about his secret to maintaining his energy throughout the demanding three weeks, he points to rest and good health, without any go-to snack or drink that would give him an extra kick.

And as the last stage of La Vuelta finishes, Guajardo’s moments of solace are poignant. “The first thing I do after finishing the stage and podium on the last day is to hug all the people who have been part of the Vuelta over the years,” he said. But the ultimate decompression? A heartfelt return home to his family, marking the close of another exhilarating chapter of La Vuelta.

The thrill of La Vuelta extends beyond the race track, resonating in the passion and dedication of those behind the curtain, crafting each moment to perfection.