Rest day breakfast. Soigneur Josué Arán García, known to all as Joshi, has a map on his smart phone, showing the route of the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail, a.k.a. the 3Cs: on September 1, 2017, the competitors will run 101 kilometers up and down the three peaks of Courmayeur, Champex and Chamonix.
Someone says to Ivan Basso, “You should train and do it with Joshi.”
He shakes a finger that says something like, “You must be crazy.”
The question is, crazy to do what: to think of running such a route, or to dream of doing so with Joshi? He's a killer. The 3Cs is the ultra-trail world championship, and Joshi is there to win.
Once a tenacious, punchy, medium-mountain stage sort of pro cyclist on the Burgos team – his mechanic there was current Trek-Segafredo colleague Rober González – Granada-born Joshi won stages at races like the Tour of Aragón and the Tour of Zamora, and wore the leader's jersey at the Tour of León, I. But, he explains, “In those days it was hard to find a team. When I was in my early twenties, the big teams were signing 26 or 27 year olds. When I was 26 or 27, they were signing 22 year olds. I didn't really know anyone, and I probably missed out a bit because of that.
“I wanted to build a life, not to be a pro just to be a pro, €600 to ride a race. I had already started giving massage and, during a Vuelta a Tarragona one year, I saw an ad for a massage school, and I enrolled. In the winter, riders like Haimar Zubeldia and Samuel Sanchez used to train where I live near Benidorm, and they used to call me. They all said, 'If you want a job with a team, it won't be a problem.'"
So it came to pass. He is often asked how it feels to have the legs of riders like Fabian Cancellara, Andy Schleck or Bauke Mollema in your hands on the massage table?
I wanted to do the best job I possibly could, and at one point my hair started falling out with the pressure I put on myself!
“It is a privilege, and exciting, but also a huge responsibility. In my early years, when I was working with Andy Schleck, I wanted to do the best job I possibly could, and at one point my hair started falling out with the pressure I put on myself!
“But, with time, you learn what type of massage each rider requires in each situation. These are things that only experience can teach.”
It was when he was working as a soigneur with the SaxoBank team that he started entering triathlons to quench his appetite for competition.
“The thing was, I wasn't good in the water, so I tried duathlons and half-marathons. I ran a couple of Valencia marathons, then in 2014 a friend invited me to join him in a mountain marathon near my home, the Desafío Lurbel [the Lurbel Challenge], 40kms over rough terrain. It was my first time, and I won it.
“There was 40, 80 and 120-kilometer versions of the Lurbel Challenge, and for each, the trophy was in the shape of the race profile. I decided I wanted to win all three trophies. In 2015 I did the 80-kilometer race, but I only finished third. In 2016, I did the 120-kilometer race and I was fifth.”
He was good at it. In 2016, he finished second in the World Ultra-Trail Championship, held near Valencia on a 60-kilometer course. In the Calpe half-marathon, which incorporates the Olta mountain, he has finished third, fourth and eighth. That race takes place each December, during the pre-season team gathering and, before retiring from cycling, Fränk Schleck used to go along to support Joshi, to hand out a bidon and collect his clothing, to the amazement of the crowds.
But ultra-trail racing is a dangerous, as well as exhilarating, sport. At the TransVulcania in Santa Cruz de La Palma in 2016, over 76 kilometers, he fell, broke six ribs and had to jog-walk 18 kilometers to the finish. So why does he do it? For a moment, he is lost for words.
“It makes me feel good, it allows me to know my limits, I want to know how far I can get. Perhaps because I always want to give the best of myself, to know that I have done everything I can.”
Sounds like a pretty good motto for the team!