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Throughout the Vuelta a España, VeloNews will be talking to some of the unsung heroes in the peloton – those riders who battle on each day without the recognition the major GC favorites or sprint stars receive.
Movistar rider Carlos Verona remembers the day he knew he wanted to be a professional cyclist.
He was 10 years old, and he was watching the penultimate stage of the 2003 Vuelta a España, which was an individual time trial from his hometown San Lorenzo de El Escorial — northwest of Madrid — to Alto de Abantos and was won by eventual champion Roberto Heras.
Verona remembers being awed by the spectacle of it all, from the riders to the publicity caravan, and knowing in that moment this was what he wanted to do with his life. He would start his racing career by the end of the following year.
“La Vuelta is why I started cycling. I remember 2003 La Vuelta passing by my region. They had an individual time trial to Abantos. I remember I went there with my family to see. I remember that was the moment is when I was like this is what I want to do,” Verona told VeloNews.
“I saw the caravan and the cyclists, and that year I was also following it on the television. You could see how far they were coming from, it was so far. For me was something really epic. When I saw it in person, I was completely impressed. I thought that always super nice to be part of this.
“In that moment, I start to be more interested in cycling, because in my family no one was really into the sport. In 2004, I started in a cycling school, which was 30k from my hometown and, luckily, I had the support from my family and my parents.”
After having the opportunity of seeing the professionals racing up close and personal, Verona fell in love with riding very quickly. He dreamed of emulating those pros one day and was disappointed to find out that he had to learn his craft on some small circuit races before he could stretch his legs on the larger point-to-point competitions.
“When I start to discover the sport, how it was, and the fact that you could ride your bike and go new places, the atmosphere that was inside the cycling world, I was really like, falling in love with this sport,” he said.
“In the first years, I was really the real disappointed because our races were just on small circuits in different towns, and they were two or three kilometers long. At the start, I thought it would be like a tour already. Like races from point A to point B. When I discovered it wasn’t happening yet, I was a bit disappointed but then every year I could have a little bit more cycling, and then more and more and more. Now, here I am at my fifth Vuelta and my 10th grand tour.”
Enjoy the ride and learn from your mistakes
In Verona’s second Vuelta appearance in 2015, he was able to return to the place where he found himself so inspired to pick up racing. The penultimate stage started in his hometown of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, right by the school he had attended as a child and with friends and family in attendance.
He also made it into the day’s breakaway and brought home a solid top-10 result. It was a special moment for Verona and one that will live long in his memory.
“To be able to in front of your school like with your family or friends there — also on that day, I could be in the breakaway and then I could finish sixth on the stage — it was really nice, and it was a day that I won’t forget. It was super cool,” Verona said.
“I didn’t think one day I would be there like that. You can always dream, and when I was a junior, I thought about being professional one day. Everything went really quick so I didn’t have the time to think I could have been the future to be a pro like this. It was super nice.”
This year’s Vuelta a España has been something of another full-circle journey for Verona. The 28-year-old began his professional career with the Burgos-BH team and spent a lot of time in Burgos itself, where this year’s race rolled out over two weeks ago.
Ten years on from his first forays into professional sport, Verona has a message for his younger self – and for all aspiring riders.
“Enjoy the journey. Know and make mistakes and learn from them,” Verona told VeloNews. “I always think the most important thing is not when you accomplish the goals, I think it is more important to enjoy the journey and that’s the most important thing. I have been doing it since I became a pro. I’ve been trying to enjoy every race, learn from it, and make my own way.”
Cycling has been good to Verona over the years, not only has he been able to stay active, travel the world, and meet people from many cultures, it was how he met his wife and built the life that he has. He would love his children to experience the same joy from sport that he has, though it doesn’t have to be cycling.
“I almost don’t remember my life without cycling because I started at the age of 13. And since then, like has been my tool to live my life,” he said.
“Cycling has given me almost everything in life, even my wife because I meet her thanks to cycling. Cycling has been something really important for my life would be nice if my kids can enjoy the sport like I do. For sure they can also find a different sport.”