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THE PERFECT MELODY by Ismael Esteban.

In the hotel, on a Sunday in autumn, the hustle and bustle can be heard in the corridors… outside, it's a wet start to the day. The opening and closing of doors is the soundtrack that wakes the guests. The coffee pots are steaming and the smell of freshly baked bread wafts up to the rooms on the first floor.

Ismael gets up, looks out of the window to a grey, drizzly morning, and thinks how he would be better off anywhere but here. And at 38, he's not getting any younger. He remembers that aroma of competition, the taste that intoxicates the palate on the starting line... he's not ready to give up yet.

The PA system is playing The Ride of the Valkyries and the chords of Wild Thing, the music that once led the way for Martin Sheen, playing Captain Benjamin L. Willard, as he headed downstream into the Cambodian jungle in Apocalypse Now. Nerves, tension, two breaths of air, a clear mind... let's hit the road!

It's time to play. We are at the races. This is our playground, our Cambodian jungle, our temple.
And may the music continue to play even louder.

Just like the old rockers of the 70s, he has tasted and experienced all concepts and disciplines. MTB, road racing, cyclo-cross, enduro... even e-bikes. Anything on two wheels. Many of you will know Ismael Esteban. A multi-discipline cyclist long before multi-discipline cyclists became fashionable. A rider who conveys passion, who has cycled with the very best for many years, despite having to work much harder than them to be there. Although it's hard to believe, for many years, Ismael Esteban's life was closer to that of an amateur than a professional athlete.

As a young boy, he took up bike trialling, which led him to his first competitive event. His first bike wasn't just any old bike, it was handmade by his father. It didn't take him long to demonstrate his worth, winning and taking the podium in his first competitive races.

I was very disappointed. Now I regret that. I tried road racing because I swallowed the whole 'you're going to get rich' thing, but I never really had a chance to go pro.

First local ones, followed by national and then world races. Step by step, he made a name for himself and came of age in the world of racing. Initially, he was only involved in MTB. But the dream of becoming a professional road racer crossed his path. It was a different time, and the only way to make a living on two wheels appeared to be on asphalt. The results came, but not the expected leap to being a pro.

Another kind of music played in the offices, a ritornello of Baroque music, where the harpsichord and organ muffled the harmonious roar of the guitars and keyboards of a young man brimming with enthusiasm, but not so many opportunities. It seemed like the beginning of the end. A big blow that ended with Ismael Esteban retiring completely from racing.

He came to experience the less pleasant side of the sport. But he never disconnected completely from cycling. He went to work in a bicycle shop, giving up racing for months. But competing was in his DNA.

His typical lunchtime rides while at the shop were the spark that ignited the flame of his return to the racetrack. This time his first focus was cyclo-cross. And what a return it was. Combining his work in the shop, he became champion of Spain. It was the beginning of Ismael Esteban version 2.0. His absence from the circuits had made him realise that racing was what truly fulfilled him.

My pre-race settings

Suspension pressure
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XCO tire pressure
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Mud and dry pressures
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Cyclocross setups
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Cross Country setups
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Tightening review
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The new Ismael Esteban made his character clear from the outset. A born fighter, unafraid of any rival and ready to compete with the best. "I would rather be a lion's tail than a mouse's head." MTB became more important with every passing season. When he found a comfortable domestic calendar in which he could shine easily, he decided to go big.

I like to be on the best circuits, with the best riders. The more technical and harder they are, the more challenging and exciting it is. The harder the races, the better for me.

It is clear that he is no longer just a promising youngster. But you'd never know it by hearing him talk about how he sees racing. The music changes over the years, but the composer's imprint remains the same.

His words are more reminiscent of a junior rider than a biker with more than two decades of racing behind him. And the results back him up.

I'm still improving, I'm getting faster every year, even in technical and difficult sections. Logic says I should be slowing down, but that's not the case. That motivates me, and I still see myself as having room to grow.

With his own structure, he has travelled all over Europe. There is only one thing that still grates: "being my own team means I cannot devote myself solely to training and racing. I have to make a living on a day-to-day basis. I would like to go into competitions having spent all my time training, racing and resting, just like the rivals I am up against will have done. But I'm doing what I enjoy, and that fulfils me."

It is the soundtrack of his life. His favourite melody, his preferred song. You can dream your whole life with the ideal script, with the perfect music; but to have that script come to life, and for you to be the one setting the pace, is incredible.

Discover Ismael Esteban's playlist
for the warm-up before competition Spotify

Ismael Esteban still has a lot to give, he has successfully adapted to changes in the competition and is able to remain competitive in any category. You can still see him racing in the mud in winter, on the XCO World Cup circuits, or now in the World E-Bike Series. His evolution is not over yet. Old rockers never die.