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24-year-old Sheyla Gutiérrez's pro cycling career is defined largely by short, steep ramps, bone-shaking Belgian cobblestones, as well as a tenacious attitude and easily recognizable mane of brown waves that earned her the nickname "The Lion."
Riding for Cylance Pro Cycling, one of the top teams in the women's pro peloton, this punchy young rider has already shown signs of being a serious contender, especially in the Classics. We sat down in mid-May with the current Spanish National Champion at her altitude training base on the "lunar landscape" of Teide, where she's just landed for a brief period of recovery-focused training after winning no fewer than two UCI stage races in China this month.
The story of Sheyla Gutiérrez is a story of healthy sibling rivalry on bikes, of one daughter having four brothers to contend with, each racing bikes and each pursuing the win. Sheyla laughs: "I first started riding when I was six and I was racing by the time I was 12 — pretty early, I guess. Back then it was normal as that's what my brothers were doing. There weren't many girls in the races, but I wasn't concerned about that. Even when I was racing the boys I always wanted to win, and I sometimes did — which sometimes didn't go down too well."
"My mum used to say she'd have preferred me not to race when I was younger," she continues, "after all, she'd seen the suffering that my brothers had gone through. I toyed with the idea of training to be a vet while I was at school and I probably would have done that if the cycling hadn't got better and better with each season. That really kept me motivated."
Sheyla joined ASSOS-sponsored Cylance Pro Cycling when it was first launched in time for the 2016 season, having ridden for Lointek on her first pro contract from 2013 to 2015. The results continued to stream in as a pro, and her victory at Le Samyn in 2017 meant even more eyes on her. For the team's Director Sportif Manel Lacambra, Sheyla represents one of the most exciting prospects in the pro peloton, and his confidence in his compatriot brims over to lend an extra source of motivation.
"From February until now I've had a lot of races, and the recent stint of racing in China was pretty hard work," confirms Sheyla, fresh from a ride on her time trial bike on Teide's notoriously undulating roads. "The Classics period is always the highlight for me with steep climbs and tiny, narrow roads. I just love it. This year was tough with the weather, but I felt really pleased to have ASSOS kit— I could see the other teams suffering from the cold a lot more than us."
"I had a few crashes at the Classics but fortunately they weren't too serious," she adds ruefully. "So while it was disappointing not to get the results I wanted, knowing that I could take the form to China confirmed that the work we'd put in over the winter had been worth it. We got our China racing campaign off to a great start with Giorgia Bronzini in the sprint, and we were optimistic going into the other races."
After Sheyla took the GC at both the Tour of Zhoushan Island and the Panorama Guizhou International Women's Road Cycling Race, her ProCyclingStats page became one of the most visited pro pages around—ranked even higher than Sagan's. Beyond just confirmation of the growing awareness for women's cycling, it's also a major sign that Sheyla's performances are being applauded.
Right now, Sheyla's focus is on recovery before turning her sights to mid-June's OVO Energy Women's Tour and early July's Giro Rosa, where Cylance Pro Cycling has a number of exciting cards to play. "Yeah, I can't wait , it's going to be really different than usual and I'm really looking forward to exploring the Italian mountains and doing iconic climbs, like the Zoncolan. We'll see how the team is doing when we get there but I know Lauren is great in the mountains, and there's also a home stage for Giorgia. We also saw how well Rossella rode at Liege, so it's all exciting."
We'll be following the team live from the Giro Rosa, so stay tuned.