The first thing that shows up on Google about Mercè Pacios Pujadó is her Strava file, which states that she «is a cyclist from United Kingdom».
That is partially right, since Mercè was born in Sabadell (Catalonia) but has been living in Oxford for 3 years.
However, we know too little about the 3rd classified in the national elite championships held in Torrelavega this year. The 32 year old visits Spain for Christmas and takes part in some of the spanish cyclocross season, combining with the National Trophy and some World Cup races.
All this seasoned with her research job at the University of Oxford, which as you will read in her own words below, is her other passion.
MERCÈ IN OXFORD
«The first year at Oxford I had no team. I was racing on my own, without any assistance and, most importantly, no water. I found to my surprise that each team carry their own water container, there is no common place to stock this precious element. An interesting anecdote happened when, having no idea how this water thing worked, I went to a team without thinking twice and I started cleaning my bike. They were staring at me in awe, something like: «who is she and what is she doing???»
With time, it turns out to be a funny anecdote, of course, but in that moment I felt very embarrassed.»
When Mercè tells me this story, one image immediately comes into my mind: she wiping her bike after Zolder World Cup last year, a race we saw live through UCI ‘s youtube channel
«The second year I started racing with Beeline, a bikes’ store in Oxford and the third year with Zappi’s Racing Team, which is the women’s club I train with. Basically I do road bike training, there is no choice. The terrain is mainly flat, there are no mountains. If I wanted to do some MTB, I would have to travel about two hours by car, somehow the distance from Barcelona to the Pyrenees «.
RESEARCH AND CYCLING
«If nothing strange happens, I’m moving back to Barcelona in May. I’m fine here, but loneliness makes it very hard. Being away from the beloved one and the family is a huge weight. I’ll try to find a job at the University of Barcelona, in the research field that I am following now. It won’t be easy, but I’ll try my best.»
«I always thought that biking is like researching: the more time you spend with it, the best results will come. They are my two passions, and if I spend hours and hours, satisfaction and awards arrive. There is no other secret. »
MTB, CX AND ROAD
«Mountain bike was my first modality, in fact it is the part of cycling I have practiced more. Cyclocross came much later. When I return to Catalonia I want to try road racing. I really feel like.
I’ve dome some races here in England and I had a lot of fun. And now I have some experience, whereas previously I had none. I will probably race for no team, surely some races in the Basque Country and the ones in Catalonia if there is any … the Spanish Cup as well. We will see next year»
«The worst part of leaving UK? My friends. I’ve spent three years here and I’ve made very good friends, women cyclists whom I share this passion with. In addition, there is an intellectual empathy, we might say. I don’t want to sound posh, but I think it is very important that you can resonate at that level too. To share many more things, not just the passion for the bike.»
«Having to go to the World Cup races in Belgium and the Netherlands alone is an adventure. For instance, the other day at Hoogerheide I took the ferry, then the car, I slept in a hotel and the next morning turn to ride to the circuit. I’m not complaining at all, the truth is that I love it, but sometimes you wonder: is it worth so much effort?. I think you cannot ask for results when you are beaten up from driving too many hours or travelling before competing. These are not ideal conditions to perform at a high level, so the final places are often misleading. People sometimes take numbers as the sole benchmark of your performance or racing, and this is far from the truth. For example, after Hoogerheide (final round of the World Cup this season) I was very happy, I did a very good race with good feelings. By contrast, in Koksijde I had a hard time, in fact I reckoned in those moments what was the purpose of all these efforts. »
«Precisely in Koksijde, Aida (Nuño Palacio, 5 times spanish cx champion) spent a lot of time with me, encouraging me. I understand that being Spanish does not help whatsoever, because the other Spanish girls are with their teams and defend the colours of their team. Their brand is MMR bikes and they share the tent. Me, I’ve got my car with my equipment, rollers included. »
BELGIUM, ANOTHER WORLD
«Belgian people live cyclocross in a total different way, it is another world. Not only because you see very young kids on bikes, enjoying the mud and the winter with both wheels, but also because people and teams help you more in the races. Both in England and in Spain we race much more individually, we do not help one another that way. »
«I guess it’s very difficult to get to their level, as for them it is a part of their education from a tender age.»
«Nevertheless, there are signs that women’s cycling in general is on the rise. Here you see a huge fondness for cycling in women. I do not know how it was a few years ago because I was not living here, but nowadays it is a bike frenzy.
«In Spain, women are less interested in the sport. To see a woman or two training is quite a rare sight, and the typical example of a female cyclist is the girl who goes out because her boyfriend or husband ride … »
«I don’t do social media. Sometimes I think I should spend a little more time on them. Ramón (my husband) tells me that many people do not even know that I ride World Cups, which is a pity. He has his point. I imagine if I worked a little on that, people would know where I ride, how I did in this race or the other. I know it is very important today. »
«I really enjoyed the nationals in Torrelavega. The circuit reminded me of the British racing because it had no climbs. Also, it shared a characteristic of the terrain: those stretches of grass where grass is gradually disappearing and turning into mud. That is typical here»
«I did a few races in the Basque Country , had some podiums and a win in Asteasu. Of course in this race the three national cx dominators were absent … but I don’t mean to diminish the level of the other participants, which are great. It was a very difficult victory. »
«I also took part in my “home race” in Les Franqueses, and I was dying of heat. I suffered a lot when everyone was complaining about the cold (laughs). I guess I am now adapted to living in Britain, so it will take some time to get used to the mild winters to train or race next year »
«In the final National Trophy classification I was fifth this season. Two years ago I was second and last year, third.
«In the World Cup this year (Koksijde, Namur and Hoogerheide) I’ve had mixed feelings. But most important: being there with the best riders in the world, inside an unparalleled atmosphere gives me an extra dosis of energy, motivation and self-improvement needed to go on growing».