Jose Hermida, the man, the myth, the (soon to be Epic) Legend, has palmares that would make even the most accomplished mountain biker’s jaw hit the floor.
Aside from being Spain’s most popular MTB racer, he’s amassed five appearances at the Olympics, including a silver medal in the Athens Games in 2004; he’s a six-time World Champion across disciplines; he’s stood atop the UCI World Cup XCO podium six times, he wore the yellow leader jersey during Stage 4 of the 2014 Absa Cape Epic and then won the Absa Cape Epic Masters category in 2019 alongside long-term friend Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez. These are but a few of the incredible stats to his name.
But even with all these, including the unmentioned results, there’s one race that he is yet to complete and that is the 4Islands MTB Croatia. Though in just a couple more days, that medal (possibly the Masters title and accompanying CIOVITA leader jersey too) will be added to his trophy cabinet.
“The 4Islands has been an exciting race on my calendar especially since it became an Epic Series event. I’ve done 10 Cape Epics so I know the Epic Series standards and how those get applied to events all around the world,” said Hermida. “Last year I was on holiday here in Croatia, though more south, and I just realised that I had to do this event to explore another new country by bike, to meet some amazing new people, and to, hopefully, get my Epic Legend medal. I’m also attracted to this race because at this stage of my life I am looking for events that are more than just a race; I want experiences, and that’s what this is. The riding is amazing, but staying on a boat, eating, drinking, being happy. That’s what I am talking about!”
Jose is racing the 2023 4Islands MTB Croatia with Antonio Ortiz and the pair are the celebrity hosts of one of the famed boats. As hosts and racers, they’ll be balancing duties on sea and land as they entertain guests in the evenings and then go toe-to-toe with those very same riders on the island trails. So, what we very well may see is friendships blooming in the evenings and then being put to the sword the very next day; though knowing Jose’s welcoming, friendly, and caring personality, that’s unlikely to happen. Make no mistake though, at 40+, he’s still in great shape and a stage win or two could be on the cards (but he won’t admit that too freely).
Ortiz is no stranger to success in mountain biking either-his multiple national titles are all the proof any doubters could need-and the pair is sure to race just as hard as they plan to entertain and enjoy themselves.
“Antonio and I met when were juniors, though he is a bit older than me,” explained Hermida. “We’ve always raced against each other on different trade teams, but never together except on the National team where we shared rooms; so we saw each other’s highs and lows and built up a great relationship and he’s now one of my closest friends. Who wouldn’t want to experience a race with their friend, especially when that guy is as experienced as Antonio! The man’s a legend.”
“Choosing a partner for any race, but especially a stage race, is the most important part of the preparation,” said Hermida. “You need to decide on your goals together and determine what success looks like. Sometimes success is the win, sometimes it’s making it to the finish line in one piece (still as friends) with a smile on your face. You are going to face tough times during a race like this or the Cape Epic and having a good friend with you makes it a bit easier to deal with the challenges and it makes the good times even better.”
Though Hermida and Ortiz are competitors for the Masters title, their race for the title and the leader jerseys won’t be a simple walk in the park.
“The Master category is still super exciting; we all experience the same excitement and nerves as the elites, but they race at 25+ kph and we just go a bit slower now,” laughed Hermida when asked about how the racing changes between categories. “We’re a bit older than the elites so it takes us a bit longer to recover; we’re going as fast as we can. But we always remind ourselves that this isn’t our job anymore and we have no stresses to go crazy fast, we can enjoy ourselves and enjoy the racing as Masters.”
While racing will always be part and parcel of who Jose Hermida is, the man with the best moustache in MTB is always eager to enjoy every moment of experiences like the 4Islands MTB Croatia
“You know, there’s a time and a place for everything. Sometimes, you need to be serious, like when the trails get technical and we need to focus, and other times you can be not so serious, like when we’re laughing about things that happened on our trip here or just chatting with new people,” said Hermida. “Life is all about balance; Antonio and I are fortunate as we have very similar mindsets and we love to have a great time. At the end of the day, at an event like this, it’s important to remember that we are here to play on our bikes. And that’s meant to be enjoyable. So, enjoy it.”
There are still two stages left at the 2023 4Islands, with plenty of racing still to come on Rab, Cres and Lošinj, Hermida and Ortiz already have their sights set on their next Epic Series race – the Andorra Epic, from 5-8 July!