The Woman Behind the Mastermind - Part I

The Woman Behind the Mastermind - Part I

By Cathy Mehl

We know a lot about Johan from what we see and read in the media, but there's no one that knows him better than his lovely wife, Eva Perez.  From their lovely home outside of Madrid, Eva was kind enough to spend some time talking about her life and sharing stories about her two kids and husband.

Cathy:  I know you were scheduled to go to Africa last week but unfortunately the Bruyneel household came down with an illness, so first and foremost how is everyone feeling?

Eva:  Everybody is feeling better. For more than four days now everyone had to stay home and take medicine. Johan had the worst case of the flu and the doctor informed us that Johan was not able to travel. This was a huge disappointment for us because we were looking forward to the trip and being part of World Bicycle Relief’s great mission. In the end, I had to take care of a lot of people. My chance to be a nurse! My friends called me and said, “Ok Eva, have you been enjoying your time in the house, taking care of your sick family?”

Editor's Note:  The first part of the interview was conducted prior to Eva and Johan's decision to join the last part of the trip in South Africa.

Was Victoria well enough to go out for Halloween on Saturday?

No, no, and she was very sad about that. On Saturday morning she came running to my bedroom and said, “Mama, mama, touch me. I’m not hot anymore! I can go to the Halloween party!” But finally she accepted that she had to stay home.

We obviously know a lot about Johan, but we don’t really know much about you and the kids. Can you give us some background information about yourself?

Yes, of course! I was born in Valencia. It’s a very nice city on the coast of Spain - on the Mediterranean Sea. It’s sunny all year around with great weather and is a very relaxed place. I have a big family. My father was married when he was very young and in his first marriage he had five kids: four boys and one girl. Then he married again and my sister and me were born, so there are seven of us in total – a big family. But even though we had different mothers, we grew up together and attended the same school, spent time together during the holidays and celebrated birthdays. It was a nice atmosphere. Some still live in Valencia, some in Alicante, so only 3-4 hours from my home here in Madrid. We have good support for each other and we try to get together as much as we can. Everyone is married and has kids now so we want to follow the same example and make sure our kids grow up together also. We place a lot of emphasis on family values.

You’ve been married to Johan for awhile. How did you two meet?

It was a real coincidence. I was always involved in sports. But in 1992 I had a very serious car accident and I suffered many fractures. The doctors advised me to go to the gym and do weight training. I was in the gym every single day for 12 straight years. In 2000 I changed to a different sports club and they organized trips to other sporting events. That July they organized a trip to see a stage of the Tour de France. I didn’t know anything about cycling at that time but I thought it was a good opportunity to meet people and learn a new sport. So I met Johan in 2000 at that stage. A friend introduced us. It was a very quick introduction since he was so busy with the Tour. We talked a little bit, but when I went back to Valencia I found out Johan had a summer house only one hour from me, so after the Tour was over we had a chance to really meet. We then dated for two years and were married in 2002.

I know you said going to the Tour de France in 2000 was your first time, but since then have you gained more interest in cycling, or do your prefer to keep it separate since it’s Johan’s work?

For me all sports are interesting. I love a healthy life and am intrigued by the discipline of sport. Everyone knows cycling is the hardest sport in the world. So for that fact alone it makes me very interested. I want to be honest that in terms of technical racing I have much to learn. I do follow it on TV of course now and then.

How about Victoria? Can you tell us what your daughter is like?

It’s an honor for me to talk about my children. They are my top priority and it brings me much joy to talk about them. Victoria is six years old. Since I became a mother my life has changed a lot. I’m fascinated by the way the kids live their lives and truthfully I observe and learn from them. Victoria has given me great lessons in life. She is sensitive and innocent. She’s a very special girl. She is very sure of herself, very confident. She has a strong personality and in this way she is very much like me.

I remember when she first started school, after only a short time her teacher told me that Victoria is a very popular girl in school with her classmates. She has a strong influence, she’s a leader, and influences others, even if it’s towards older children. At home she’s very friendly, a very nice girl and she likes to give us surprises. She adores her Daddy. When she was younger she didn’t understand why he was always leaving the house, why he was traveling so much. I will never forget the first time she saw Johan on television. She was angry because he didn’t say hello to her. She was talking to Johan on the TV, but she didn’t understand why he didn’t wave to her. She thought he was looking at her from the TV and she was saying hello to him, but he didn’t respond. She wasn’t happy about that!

Is it still hard for her now when Johan leaves?

No, she is older now so she understands it’s his job.

You mentioned that Victoria likes surprises? Wasn’t there a birthday surprise for Johan a few months ago?

(Eva laughs) Oh yes! I wanted to give him a nice birthday surprise! So I started thinking about doing something special, something very different from other years. I started getting my ideas and he was away in Ireland for a race so I knew I had time to put my plan in place. We did some special things like shirts that said Happy Birthday Daddy, but the most special part was when we rented a plane with a banner towed behind and it displayed a special message to him with his nickname. I had to be sure he knew it was from me! We planned a party with lots of families and kids. We had music, cakes, champagne and finally the plane flew over with the message. Everyone on the balconies was clapping, it gave me goose bumps to see that Johan was so moved by this!

So next year it will be hard to top that! You’ll have to start thinking now what you can do!

Oh yes, I have already started thinking about that!

Check back soon to read more about Eva and her thoughts on Alberto, Lance and baby boy Christian!

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