Juan Ayuso in a time trial.

The Office or the F1 simulator? Ten questions with Juan Ayuso

Rising GC star Juan Ayuso tells us about his best subject in school, what he does in his free time, and much more.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 28.03.2024 Photography by
Kristof Ramon and Cor Vos
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In the latest installment of our Ten Questions series, we catch up with one of cycling’s most promising young stars, Juan Ayuso of UAE Team Emirates. The Spaniard climbed onto a Grand Tour podium at just 19 years old at the 2022 Vuelta a España, and he has picked up his first few WorldTour-level wins over the ensuing year and a half. He has the all-rounder skillset to take victories in time trials, solo attacks, and reduced sprints, and still just 21, he only seems set to get even better.

Fresh off another TT win and a runner-up ride overall at Tirreno-Adriatico and with Itzulia Basque Country on the horizon, Ayuso talked with Escape Collective about his best subject in school, how he unwinds with his F1 simulator, and so much more.

Escape Collective: When did you know you were going to make it as a pro cyclist?

Juan Ayuso: I think the year before I became a Junior. In Spanish it’s called “cadete” – I don’t know in English how you say “under 16.” So not Junior but before that, the last year before becoming a Junior, I started to think I was quite good. I started to think, okay, maybe if things go well then one day I can arrive and then actually from there everything went quite quickly to be honest. And when I was a first-year Junior, it was more than a dream, it was now more like an objective, because it was close to being a reality. I was already speaking with UAE, with Movistar. I didn’t have anything signed but when I was first-year Junior then I knew that it was just a matter of time.

EC: Can you tell us about your pre-race ritual?

JA: It might sound funny, but I think it’s a ritual of many riders to go to the bathroom quite a lot. Normally, I go to the bathroom and then before I get off the bus, I text my family and my girlfriend, and then that’s pretty much it.

EC: What is the specific memory that springs to mind from the most memorable day of your career?

JA: I think it would be when I was on the podium in Madrid. In my first Vuelta, to be on the podium in my first Grand Tour was something amazing. I remember being up there and looking down and I wouldn’t say all my family but all my nearly all. My grandmother, my uncles, my girlfriend, my father, like 15 or 20 very close relatives down there, and looking at them from the top was one of the most special moments I’ve had.

The Vuelta podium: left to right, Juan Ayuso, Remco Evenepoel and Enric Mas.
In his debut Grand Tour – and in his home country no less – Juan Ayuso climbed onto the final podium.

EC: Obviously it’s still very early in your career, but is there a race that feels like the one that got away, where you came close to winning but couldn’t quite manage it?

JA: Winning a Grand Tour stage is still something that I am really motivated about and want to do because I think I’ve been very close many times. For example, I think in the [Vuelta] stage in Andorra when Remco won [stage 3 of the 2023 race], I don’t want to say I had the legs to win because, you know, Remco was also very strong, but I think I really played the sprint badly. I was waiting for Roglič to start, and then when I went it was very late. Remco started quite far away and I was just looking at Roglič because for me, I thought, you know, Roglič in those types of finishes is one of the strongest riders now. It’s always a thought that when I see the photo or the video, I always say to myself, “Fuck. What could it have been now if I played it a bit differently,” you know? And maybe I would have been able to achieve it. So for sure, I think I wouldn’t say a specific one – but maybe this one.

EC: Is there another pro in the peloton who you would want to be more like in some way?

JA: Tadej [Pogačar] or [Jonas] Vingegaard, having their legs and not suffering all day would be nice. Sometimes I see them and I have the feeling that they don’t suffer anything. It was funny, the other day I was with [Mattias] Skjelmose training here in Andorra, and we’re both saying the same thing that you know, even when we win, we still have to suffer so much before. Sometimes you’re still next to 30 riders and, even if you’re the strongest and end up winning, you still suffer so much. Actually we both said the same thing that we have the sensation that these guys, even when they’re alone, they don’t suffer. It was quite funny. That just shows level they are at.

Juan Ayuso at the Tour de Suisse.
Sometimes, even Juan Ayuso suffers on the bike.

EC: What was your best subject in school? Have you thought about what you might have done for a living if not sports?

JA: I was better with numbers than letters, so I would say anything around with math … I think physics was the best one. I think coming from a numbers family, me and my brother did economics, my sister studied math, my dad was working in a bank. It’s a very more numbers and then letters family. So when I have to deal with all the data we get, everything we have to do and analyze for watts or CdA or whatever, anything that’s related to cycling, it’s nice that I’m more comfortable with numbers than letters.

I think [for a non-sports career] something related with economics because also it’s what my father’s in. I have always spoke with him about it and it’s something that I’m quite interested in now, finance and economics.

EC: How would your friends describe you and your personality and interests – without mentioning bikes?

JA: I think we have to ask them, but I think they’ll say that I don’t like losing in any game we do. I get fed up even if it’s mini golf or whatever. I take it really seriously to try and win. Also, I have to say, my friends are also very competitive. So we always have good laughs because it’s yeah, it’s funny that we take everything – even the smallest things – very seriously to try and beat the other and then show off all day, you know, saying we’re better than them, joking.

Related to cycling, I think I do know how to lose – but many games and whatever we do for fun for recreational purposes, I think those I don’t know how to lose. I’m very competitive.

Juan Ayuso wins the Faun-Ardèche Classic.
Juan Ayuso is competitive both on and off the bike.

EC: What is your favorite way to spend a day off the bike?

JA: Before you called me I was playing on the Formula One simulator. I have, I wouldn’t say a professional but a quite decent setup. The seat is like a Formula One [seat], and then I have three monitors and the steering wheel and everything. It’s a nice place to be when I have free time. It actually tires you quite a lot, so normally in the afternoons when I train I don’t use it because I’m too tired. On the rest days it’s nice and also it helps me do some core, because actually the steering wheel has a real response, super hard. I mean if you play for one or two hours, you finish with your arms totally … at least me, which, my arms are very weak compared to my rest of my body, so I finish quite tired.

EC: Do you have a go-to “comfort TV” show or movie that you can put on for hours?

JA: It might sound like I have a problem, but I think I have watched The Office fully, nine seasons, three times. Sometimes in between when I started and watching again season one, I forget nearly all the jokes. You remember a bit the most important things, but yeah. I really love The Office and now my girlfriend is watching it for the first time, and I always have to bump in and watch some episodes with her because because for me I think it’s my favorite show.

EC: If you can have the perfect meal to celebrate something great, what are you eating?

JA: It always really depends on where you are and where the race finishes. But I you know, one of my favorite foods is a burger. So if I’m able to get out to eat a burger after a race … then I think I prefer a burger over nearly everything.

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