Disbelief and pleasure mingle in the still handsome features of José Luis Laguía.
He was first presented with a pink and blue Reynolds jersey 36 years ago. Can he remember the feeling? “Incredible happiness.”
Then, Laguía was a young man. He and his team-mates were amateurs. Sponsorship from a local metalwork business made them professionals, but the backing was slight. Laguía changed that when he won the Tour of the Basque Country a year later. The bosses at the Reynolds factory were impressed.
Investment flowed into the team. A new jersey followed: blue. The riders already prided themselves on their appearance. They were handsome young men who wanted to inspire the public. In cycling, you must suffer, Laguía says,but your rivals should not know.
Five times Laguía won the King of the Mountains competition at La Vuelta. He is still the record holder. He smiles. “No one since has been crazy enough to attempt it.”
There were others in the team who left a mark. Laguía remembers a charismatic young rider called Pedro Delgado who could lift the mood merely by his presence. Miguel Indurain joined the team when Laguía was at his peak. The gentle giant needed convincing of his own talent. “He was scared to attack!”
José Miguel Echávarri was the team’s manager. Laguía calls him a reference point. Intelligent. Well liked. A man able to call on the assistance of others.
Echavarri continued to run the team until retiring in 2007. Laguía stayed too. He has been press officer, sports director, president of the riders’ union of Spain and internationally.
Today he is a guiding light for Movistar’s professionals. All champions are different, Laguía says. Valverde works harder than any other and races only to win. Quintana is already the boss, but has much to learn.
Laguía says Abarca Sports has a unity like no other and that richer teams would buy the same spirit if they could. It is this environment that allows Valverde and Quintana to work together, he believes.
Young men receive their first jersey as Laguía talks. He understands their emotions. Some of their parents watched him ride for Reynolds, he says. They must hope their sons enjoy a career like his.
Original Reynolds jersey from private collection of Prendas Ciclismo