Director of the Kometa Cycling Team u23, Rafa Díaz-Justo has very few doubts about the signing of Mario Vilches. “He is among the four or five best climbers in the category”, he says. The Andalusian is another of the young talents that has been forged during his early years in the field of mountain biking. In 2017, in fact, he won the Spanish Bikemarathon championship and the Spanish Open of this discipline in the U23 category.
Vilches is a native of Quesada, a beautiful village located near the Sierra de Cazorla, very close to the source of the Guadalquivir River. It is a spectacular landscape where its outstanding qualities for the practice of cycling in all its varieties are unknown. Next to the house, ascents of ignored notoriety. Tíscar, La Cumbre, La Losa, El Yelmo,… Puerto dignos de Vuelta, de Giro, de Tour.
In an unpaved one, El Chorro, Mario’s idyll began with cycling. Or deepened. “My love of cycling began when I was 15 years old. I was playing football then, but I saw my brother José Ángel going out with his neighbours to ride mountain bikes and I was jealous that I couldn’t go. One weekend we met all the friends of football and went to climb El Chorro, which is an ascent of fifteen kilometers. We threw the whole morning, without haste and with the sandwiches to slope. From then on I fell in love with this sport and began to go out a little more regularly. I wanted to find a way to go out with my brother and his friends,” he recalls.
Eventually Mario not only went out with his brother, but also competed. Always fat wheels. The road bike came much later. “It wasn’t until I was 18 that I bought my first road bike. It wasn’t a big deal, I spent 200 euros or so. I really liked it. And the truth is that one of the things that motivated me most to continue was to see Alberto Contador in the Angliru in the year of his retirement.
For cycling, all the surroundings of Quesada are a paradise and very close are many others. Vilches endorses it: “The truth is that the Sierra de Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas is a past. Here there are a lot of ports, we have winding roads, narrow, without traffic, without a flat meter… The day that there is a stage here people are going to be surprised. And a lot. It’s impressive”.
The truth is that the Sierra de Cazrola is safe and the villas is a past, a lot of port, winding roads, without a rest meter, the day they make a stage here people are going to stay wanting more, is impressive.
The 2019 season has been Mario’s first season in the U23 category, a campaign for which he signed with Team Extremadura of Zafra. Coiled in the structure of Alfonso Rodriguez pacense, the Jienense finished third in the overall final Vuelta a la Provincia de A Coruña or fifth in the revived Vuelta a Palencia. In a race so fundamental for the evolution of many sporting lives as the Balenciaga Memorial of Eibar, Vilches signed an outstanding seventh position. Within the last thousand metres, to which he arrived in the group of favourites, he did not have any doubt in launching an attack with which he wanted to surprise before his less powerful sprint in front of other contenders.
“My first sporting dream would be to become a professional cyclist. That I think is something that all of us who are in the pack dream of, to be a professional of what you like the most. But if I do, hopefully, the next one would be to run a big lap,” says Vilches. For the Andalusian cyclist the mountain is more than a terrain to attack. It’s a lifestyle. “I like to go out to the mountains, take a mountain bike or go hiking. I love to enjoy nature. The truth is that I am chained to the mountain”, concludes the new rider of the Kometa Cycling Team under23.
(automatic translation, sorry for mistakes)
📸 Alvaro García