María José Silvestre, Champion in Le Mans.
All her life riding a bicycle. She was born and raised surrounded by them, in the store that first her grandfather and then her father ran, the second oldest in the entire Valencian Community, and the one that has been in her hands for a few years now. Among pedals, wheels, sprockets, handlebars and seats, María José Silvestre makes a living, but she also enjoys it. Champion of Spain on several occasions in ultra-distance, at 53 she made history by being the first Spanish woman to go solo and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in the Mecca of resistance.
A triumph achieved through sweat, after completing 636 kilometres, a goal that nobody had been able to surpass in previous years. And without stopping, taking 28 laps to second place. “It was my dream to win there. I love bikes and I know all the circuits in Spain. I wanted to ride in the Le Mans and as soon as I arrived the first thing I did was go see where the podium was. I convinced myself that I was going to be on it, and so I was”, she says to the "EL CORREO", a newspaper from Bocairent, her native town.
In her grandfather's store, she started pedalling, discovering a hobby that has always been with her. “For me, cycling was an escape from daily life. At work you have lots of worries and a lot of stress, but I take out the bike and come back like new. It is a way of unwinding.”
María José was invited to the 24-hour presentation in Cheste and after going around the circuit several times, she promised that she would try to spend a whole day pedalling, which for most mortals is much more than a penance. “I constantly do stress tests and the doctors who help me told me that my body endured long distance very well, that it had a great tolerance capacity.” Said and done.
In Le Mans, in French territory, that was made clear. After a spectacular departure, Silvestre won the battle against the champion in the last two editions, the English woman Gina Cleere.
The Valencian María José Silvestre completed 653 kms on the bike trainer.
The Bocairent cyclist is proclaimed worldwide runner-up after pedalling without rest for 24 hours.
The global pandemic situation has effectively eliminated the vast majority of competitions, from the Olympic Games to national championships. Only the harsh restrictions and the efforts of the organisers to create an aseptic bubble has managed to get some specialities to be contested.
But now the opportunity has arisen to compete in a race thanks to the Internet and technology. Connected to the network, all competitors will compete in the World Cup under the organisation of the RAAM (Road Across America) in California.
They have converted the real race on a 29-kilometre circuit into a competition assisted by a computer application that allows all participants to know where all the rivals are on the circuit. The race was originally held in Borrego Spring, California, and the route was reproduced precisely, with the same route and the same slopes.
The Spaniard María José Silvestre, in addition to winning the last edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in cycling, has been proclaimed runner-up in the 24-hour time trial on virtual bike trainer from the Teatro Avenida de Bocairent (Valencia) in a competition played with cyclists from each country connected to the internet. The race began at six in the afternoon on Saturday (Spanish time) until six in the afternoon on Sunday, 17 January.
The possibility of supporting an association has led to the creation of the Euros x Kilometre formula where companies in the area have provided support for an amount proportional to the result. The AFABocairent association for family members of people with Alzheimer’s will be the beneficiary. In addition, Silvestre has competed at Teatro Avenida de Bocairent to raise awareness on this problem. Unfortunately, the race was held behind closed doors, “It's a shame because I would have liked to ride with the public but you have to be responsible in these times, in fact the whole team took a Covid test that came back negative.”
Silvestre is always very forward-thinking with her ultracycling races and for this occasion she relied on Gsport for her equipment. “They have created a jersey for me without pockets or zippers and a micro-perforated fabric; and GSPORT also has special shorts as the perspiration is much higher than in an outdoor race.”
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