For many cycling fans Eurosport is the cycling channel. This year the television company played a blinder – to use a technical football term – when it recruited Laura Meseguer to its ranks for the Vuelta. Fitting, really, given that the guy who hired her is responsible for both football and cycling coverage on Eurosport. [My dream job – Ed.] Laura and I first met at the Tour de France and then spent the rest of the season just missing one another at various events due to pressure of work. But I’ve finally tracked her down and we’re enjoying an espresso together on the VeloVoices sofa.
Sheree: Laura, there aren’t too many ladies in the press room at cycling events. Perhaps you can tell our readers about your background and how you got started in cycling.
Laura: While I was at university I started working in the TV department of the Agencia EFE, a Spanish international press agency. Then I jumped to the ‘other side’ – the communications department of a big company which sponsored the 2007 gold leader’s jersey at the Vuelta a España. That was my first contact with cycling. I didn’t know anything about the sport before that experience but I felt really attracted from the very first moment with it. It was hard to keep working in the company in the middle of the economic crisis. Even with no budget for our department, I might have been able to find my dream job. A sad episode changed my life, my views, you could say my everything and gave me the necessary strength to quit my job and start from zero in searching for my particular version of ‘the American dream’.
Sheree: Wow that was pretty brave of you. I know journalism runs in the family. Your father’s a journalist. Was he your inspiration?
Laura: We lived in Argentina and Chile because my father was the local delegate for the Agencia EFE and our house was in the same building where the agency was located. In fact, to enter the house you had to cross the editorial office first. I grew up between teletypes, old computers, papers everywhere, telephones ringing all day long and journalists. When the agency was empty it turned into my playroom. Thanks to my father’s job we were used to have people at home visiting us: personalities from the Argentinean and Spanish cultures, show-business people and very often the Spanish journalists living in Argentina or Chile. I remember our house crowded with people for dinner such as for the typical asado argentino (Argentine barbecue). So I also grew up listening to amazing stories and surrounded by very interesting people. Soon I realised that journalism was a very demanding profession as my father spent most of the day working in his office. In addition to this he and his friends who used to come into our home were truly passionate and dedicated to their work.
Since I was a child I have had a special love for communications. Photography, music, movies, writing and every single way you can express something with it. I attended media studies and my intention was not to focus on journalism. In 2006 my plan had been to move to Cuba for a couple of months for a course of Direction of Photography for the film industry. But I started working for a new company and I suddenly understood the power of sport and everything changed.
Sheree: I think your ‘hard-working’ tag is well deserved when I look at the list of your activities in the world of cycling. As well as working for Eurosport and writing and taking photographs for Pedalier Pro, you write a blog for Festina, handle communications for a sportif in Mallorca and have provided live television commentary on the Giro. Have I missed anything?
Laura: I must recognise I like working, but just because I love what I do. For me it’s really difficult to say no to a project or collaboration, because I do really enjoy to do it. And I also say yes to projects outside cycling if they can fit into my programme. It’s a learning experience, you get to know other professionals and personalities and you can also develop other skills.
Sheree: Which of your many activities do you enjoy the most and why?
Laura: I like the combination of all of them because it allows me to narrate different stories in different ways. For example, during the Vuelta I was working for Eurosport and the information was direct, fast and concrete. I was also writing a daily article for Festina’s blog giving a deeper insight, going behind the scenes and also with some reference to what happens back-stage at the race. It was a great opportunity to share with the supporters the whole experience of the day.
Sheree: Laura’s held in very high regard by the peloton. She’s the journalist who’s most followed on Twitter by the riders by a country mile (source: VeloFacts). Were you aware of this distinction?
Laura: I read something about it. Twitter’s a very useful tool to get in contact and follow everything connected to cycling and some other interests. I like to see the journalism produced by my colleagues in the UK, USA, Italy … and of course it keeps me informed about riders’ day-to-day and opinions. Anyway I try to avoid the dependency it can generate and not to spend my entire 24 hours on it.
Sheree: What for you are the key elements of a good story? Where do you find inspiration?
Laura: I find it behind the interviewee’s own experiences. I’m sure that everyone has interesting stories to tell, they just need to dig in their souls and talk with passion. My friends always say that I ask thousands of questions while I’m listening to a story. It’s not that I’m nosy – I love to hear other people’s stories about their lives and jobs, it gives me a bigger dimension of life and the world.
Sheree: Who has proved to be some of your most interesting interviewees and why?
Laura: There are a few. From cycling I liked the talk I had with Jens Voigt last year. It was very interesting in terms of information but also very inspirational. He’s someone who talks with the heart and takes his time to explain his feelings and sensations, like if it was the first time he answered those kind of questions. With Juan Antonio Flecha I had a good connection as well. He moved from Argentina to Spain in 1989, the same year I moved from Spain to Argentina. When you talk with him you forget he’s a rider and you can have an interesting conversation about other things in life. And, if you want someone who speaks clearly about cycling and a learning experience about the sport, then you need to talk with Pablo Lastras.
Outside cycling, I loved to interview Steve McCurry, the photographer from National Geographic, when I was working for Agencia EFE. Another interview I will never forget was with the famous Spanish writer Antonio Gala for a documentary about the film director Luis García Berlanga.
Sheree: That’s a very interesting cross-section. I’m more than a wee bit envious. Now, which are your favourite races to cover?
Laura: I like it a lot when I start the season in Tour of San Luis. I feel like I’m at home, I have good friends working there, fans are so passionate and it’s great to see how the race and the city is growing up every year. I enjoyed a lot my first time at the Giro last year and hope I can repeat this experience in the years to come. I like the Vuelta a lot and the dimension of the World Championships.
Sheree: This year thanks to USADA’s ‘reasoned decision’ on Lance Armstrong the cycling off-season was uncharacteristically busy. A number of notable Spanish riders such as Miguel Indurain, Samuel Sanchez, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde expressed their surprise at Lance being busted for a ‘non-analytical positive’. This wasn’t well received by the majority of cycling fans who’ve interpreted it as support for Lance. Can you perhaps throw some light on their reactions?
Laura: I think it’s important to stand up against doping and speak clearly about it, and riders need to see how important their role is in achieving this. I think a lot of people still believe that Armstrong really had the qualities to achieve a Tour de France victory being clean. The thing is that once the truth has been made clear from cheats, lies and damage you have to condemn the guilty.
Sheree: That’s a good point and echoes my thoughts too. Now for something a bit more light-hearted. What do you typically do in your spare time apart from sky-diving? Was that a first?
Laura: Yes, it was the first time. I was looking for a shot of adrenalin but it was pretty relaxed, I must say. I went to Mexico for holidays and I practised underwater diving with a friend of mine who is an instructor. That was a real adrenalin rush and a good experience and I wanted to overcome the fear of it. It’s not that I’m looking for risky adventures all the time! Normally in my spare time I like travelling, discovering some places and cultures, meeting friends for long conversations, reading, going to the cinema and spending time at the gym in the morning.
Sheree: What does this season hold for you? Will you be working again with Eurosport?
Laura: Yes, after covering the Vuelta a España route presentation in Vigo [on 12th January – Ed], I will be covering the Tour of San Luis. I don’t know yet much about which other races I will be covering this year, but I think it will be very similar to 2012 working with Pedalier, Eurosport, Festina and Mallorca 312.
Sheree: Laura, thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts with our readership. I look forward to catching up with you later this year at one of the many cycling events.
Laura: Hope so too! Thank you. See you on the road. 🙂
You can follow Laura on Twitter @Laura_Meseguer.