We spoke to Madrid-based amateur gravel racer Graciela Ferrer from the No Borders Gravel Team about why going back to basics in the gym is her bread and butter in winter, what it’s like to study again as an adult, and how she’d prefer the pro rider weather conditions found in Valencia over Madrid’s colder climate.
Can you talk us through a typical day in winter?
I’m lucky that Madrid isn’t as cold as where my teammate Daniel lives, but it can still feel incredibly cold. If I could, I’d spend my winters in Alicante where all the pros go to get the ideal conditions for riding. This winter I’m spending a lot of time at the gym and on the indoor trainer – I started studying again last September so juggling that alongside having a job and training is not easy.
How does your current training differ from what you usually do in the summer?
In winter my focus turns to strength work at the gym and on the trainer. If I get outside for a ride, I’ll keep it easy and spin in Z2. I’m concentrating on my upper body at the gym, which I think is really important for gravel as having more muscle mass should help as cushioning against the rough ground.
The biggest difference between winter and summer is that you’ll never see me on the rollers in the summer! I love the sun and really enjoy going on longer rides. Here are some of my favourite routes in Madrid.
How do you stay motivated when there are no races on the calendar?
I’m keeping motivated by thinking about what’s coming in the season – If I can fit them in around studying, I plan to start with a few Spanish Cup Gravel races in the build-up to The Traka, which is the first big goal for the whole team.
Having a new focus at the gym with increased strength work is also giving added micro-motivation.
You already mentioned that winter in Spain is a little easier and warmer, than say, Stockholm where your teammate Daniel is based. What’s Madrid like for gravel riding in this season?
On reflection, maybe it’s not quite so bad, actually! Each time I open our team Whatsapp chat, I can never believe what the thermometer says for the temperatures that Daniel is riding in.
Madrid isn’t particularly hot at any time of the time – it’s usually cold and dry, but we’ve just had a few really intense weeks of rain and mud. I count myself pretty lucky that we’re almost always able to find nice trails and undulating gravel routes that are free from snow!
What gravel events are you most looking forward to in 2024?
I’m most looking forward to racing The Traka for a number of reasons: firstly, the whole No Borders gang is getting together and there will be a lot of other familiar faces. And secondly, it’s my birthday on May 4th so I feel really honoured to line up and have such great equipment to race on. The Traka shares some of the same sponsors behind No Borders, which makes it doubly special for us to be a part of – shout out to Sram and 226ers!
I’m also toying over the idea of doing my first ultra gravel race. The Capitals is 823 km and would be a great test for my mind and body.
Another goal is to see if I can reclaim my Spanish Masters Road title, which is raced at the end of the season…
Do you have a coach? What’s your relationship like with them?
Yes, my coach is César Neira and I get on really well with him. He’s always reminding me to stick to my zones – I have a habit of riding with the guys, which means I’m always riding above my threshold and finishing every ride in a box. He sets me a lot of specific bike and gym work.
My friend and nutritionist Carlos Pelayo is also an important figure as he’s helped me develop a better fuelling strategy. In the past I often ate too little on the bike, but it’s so important to eat properly.
What do you do to chill?
Whenever I get a chance I’ll go on a ride that will have nothing to do with chasing wheels or thinking about watts. Unfortunately, that’s a bit of a luxury so relaxation looks more like going to the gym, taking a bath, or reading a book.
You obviously know a lot about bikes, when did you first start working in a bike shop? What do you enjoy most about that part of your life?
I started working in a bike shop about a year and a half ago, but I wouldn’t say I was an expert yet – an advanced mechanics course with Sram would be my idea of a dream! I have learned a lot of things I didn't know before about bikes and I’ll always be the first to offer to help my teammates go tubeless!
I like working in the bike shop because cycling is a really big part of my life. I do a lot of content creation for the store, and develop and manage the website. I enjoy getting the chance to be creative.
Are you a good student?
That’s a good question. I was a bit nervous to start studying again but I think the choice of Marketing and Advertising has been a great one. I’m not in the habit of studying but I passed the first semester so it’s clearly going in the right direction! There’s been such a range of topics, like business management, digital manager and commercial research, and some take a while to grasp.
When you’re not studying, working, or riding your bike, where are we likely to find you?
I keep myself extra business with my own jewellery brand – which I’d love to continue to develop. I make bike-themed jewellery, custom designs and really enjoy making rings with gems or rocks like lapis lazuli and onyx.
Of course, I would also never turn down a good coffee with good company and the chance to read a book, although time is often a bit tight for this.
Monday – Friday:
05:40 wake up
6:30 leave for university
8:00–13:20 in class
PM – work
20:00 dinner and bed!
Every effort has its reward… The greater the effort, the greater the reward