A tale of identical twins and a jovial Brazilian rider: Movistar’s Classics revolution

The Spanish team is beginning to assemble squads that could challenge for many more significant results in the cobbled Classics

For the first time in their long history, a story that stretches back more than four decades, there was genuine intrigue from the outset surrounding Movistar’s cobbled Classics campaign this season. 

Although they have lost Matteo Jorgensen to Visma-Lease a Bike, in Spanish champion Oier Lazkano and Iván Cortina, surrounded by diesel engines Rémi Cavagna and Lorenzo Milesi, the team forever known as a stage racing outfit has finally amassed a collection of riders who have proven they are capable of potentially winning one of northern Europe’s one-day slogs. In the women’s squad, a team that has won many Classics in recent years thanks to Annemiek van Vleuten, they now count on the dependable services of Arlenis Sierra and Emma Norsgaard, 

To illustrate the transformation, there were a notable number of Spanish voices coming from fans clad in Movistar kit at Paris-Roubaix, and ahead of the Tour of Flanders, the men’s team organised a pre-race press conference, supposedly the first time they have ever done so.

But it wasn’t all just about the aforementioned: another three riders were lining up in blue at Roubaix last weekend with fascinating backstories. Visma-Lease a Bike’s Van Dijke twins might have caught the attention with their performances in the men’s race, but they were actually the second set of twins to take to the startline of Roubaix.

A day earlier, two of Spanish cycling’s brightest young prospects made their Roubaix debuts: 19-year-old identical twin sisters Lucía and Laura Ruiz Pérez. The two teenagers, signed to three-year contracts with Movistar, are so similar that, not only do they each study veterinary at university in León, but their their sports director, Tim Harris, admitted to Rouleur that even “after four months working together, I still cannot tell them apart – and neither can many people in the team can tell who’s who. They're so identical, no one knows.”

Laura Ruiz

Laura Ruiz at the 2024 Gent-Wevelgem (Photo: Dani Sanchez/Movistar)

To prove the point, on the eve of the race, organisers ASO emailed the team to inform them that they had erroneously assigned the wrong race numbers to the wrong twin. Mistaken identity is just par for the course when it comes to the pair. “Sometimes in races, especially if it’s raining and they’ve got their cape on, I’ll see one of them in the group and I’m not sure who it is. I’ll ask on the radio, ‘Lucía, Laura, who is in front? Which one just got dropped?’ The amount of times I’ve shouted at the wrong person,” Harris laughed.

“The thing is, they look exactly the same on the bike, and if one is in the room it’s like you’ve cut one person in half because their personality is also 100% alike. I’ve now told them that one of them has to have an earring in so we can differentiate.” None of this is anything new, Lucía pointed out. “It’s been like this all of our lives,” she laughed, while Laura asked: “There are a few twin brothers in cycling, but female twins? I can’t think of any.”

Lucía finished 80th in the race, and Laura just two minutes ahead of the time cut in 100th place. “Es una pasada - it’s amazing,” she said afterwards. “All the people applauding, so many people everywhere, it helped me to keep going. I tried to get in the breakaway a few times but the peloton didn’t let me. In the end, I was just trying to survive.”

After Lotte Kopecky had triumphed in the women’s race – Sierra was the best-placed Movistar rider in 18th – came the turn of the men, and alongside Cortina and Lazkano was a Brazilian flag. For only the second time in history, a rider from the world’s fifth largest country was to ride Roubaix – Vinicius Rangel.

Forty-eight hours before the race, the entertaining 22-year-old went on a race recon. “The Arenberg is mad, right?” the Brazilian said with a croaky voice and palpable excitement. “It’s like you’re going to destroy the bike every metre. The space between the cobbles is really, really big. It’s mad! All the sectors are narrow, and it rained so I was sliding all over and the bike was bouncing all over the place. I even fell two times.” Really? “I swear to you,” he replied, prompting another hysterical laugh. “On the second sector I fell on my left and right side, cutting my bib shorts. But I’m fine, just scratches and maybe a small bruise. What an adventure! 

“Maybe I had too much confidence this morning,” he continued. “I didn’t know the lines, and you also need a really specific technique. You have to relax and you can't be rigid as you’re constantly trying to control the bike. I’m never really fearful of anything, but after the second fall, I said, ‘fuck, I’ve not hurt myself, but, Vini, you really can’t make any errors on the cobbles’. That makes me a little scared, but I’ll just take the race by the balls and give it my all.”

Vinicius Rangel

Vinicius Rangel at the finish of Paris-Roubaix 2024 (Photo: Dani Sanchez/Movistar)

Murilo Fischer, the most successful Brazilian pro, rode seven editions of Roubaix, the last in 2016. “He’s the only other rider I can think to have been here, and it means a lot for me to represent my country,” Rangel said. “My family supports me but they don’t like to watch the racing on TV – my mum is especially scared. But my friends will be watching it. 

“I’d like to be at the front of the race, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m still young and have a lot to learn, and until now I’ve always been a rider for the one-week races. I’m 64kg so it’s going to be pretty uncomfortable for me, but it’s going to be so beautiful. Sunday is a bonus for me – if it doesn’t go well, I’m sure I will try it a few more times I am sure.”

Rangel finished the race in the last big gruppetto, 18 minutes down on winner Mathieu Van der Poel; Johan Jacobs, in 38th, was the team’s best rider. Cortina was undone by a slipped wheel on the Koppenberg in Flanders, and Spanish champion Lazkano didn’t finish Roubaix, but after winning the part-gravel race Clásica Jaén in February, last season’s breakthrough Classics rider placed third at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and was a regular presence in other cobbled races. 

For the first time, both the men’s and women’s Movistar teams are worth keeping an eye on – at least to monitor the development of the twins and the Brazilian, if nothing else.

Cover image of Lucia Ruiz by Getty Images/Movistar

Shop now