After twenty one years of existence, the cycling club that changed Rigoberto Urán’s life—the one that took him in and helped him become a professional after his father was brutally gunned down in his native Urrao—nearly came to an end last year. There was a general lack of organization, and an unwillingness to do the work necessary to continue a cycling club in a town like Urrao. Suddenly, it looked as though two decades of cycling tradition in would be coming to an end.
It was then that Juan Carlos Cuervo stepped in to make sure that the club would continue. He had known Rigoberto Urán for over ten years, and through him knew what the club was capable of. As Rigoberto's story proved, the club's importance within Urrao went well outside the realm of sport. It was with this in mind that Juan Carlos organized events to help raise money for the club, including raffles and fruit cocktail stands throughout town. His devotion to the club and its young members was undeniable. Those who previously ran the club, as well as its young members, recognized Juan Carlos’ leadership and commitment instantly, and he was voted in as the club's president.
Juan Carlos Cuervo
Today, his dedication for the club continues, as he continues to seek financial help for basic items that the member's families simply can't afford. Juan Carlos has also helped strengthen the relationship between Rigoberto Urán and the club (the club is now officially called The Rigoberto Urán Cycling Corporation as a result). Aside from funding much of the club, Rigoberto rides with them when he's in town, and passes on the many lessons that he's learned during his time as a professional. Rigoberto also serves as inspiration to its nearly forty members, since they all know his story very well. Logically, they look up to him, and follow him as he races in Europe. As Juan Carlos puts it, “For the kids, seeing Rigoberto at the Tour this year was absolutely euphoric. It meant so much to them, and gave them great pride to see him race like that.”
While Rigoberto's inspiration and knowledge is helpful to these young cyclists, Juan Carlos is quick to point out that because of where the members live, the club’s mission extends well outside of cycling. “Our members come from very, very poor families. They struggle on a daily basis along with their families just to live. So their lives are very difficult at a very young age. It’s for this reason that our goal is to help them grow as cyclists, but more importantly to grow as people. We want to keep them away from the problems that surround them, including drugs and alcohol abuse, and many other bad things that they can get into around here. They have to gain values that will help them build Colombia into a better society.”
It’s a lofty goal for a small cycling club...to build Colombia into a better society. But with Rigoberto’s inspiration and Juan Carlos' hard work, it's certainly possible. After all, Rigoberto's path in life (which you can read about here), is itself proof of what cycling is capable of. So why not?
Three other things:
I'm currently working on ways that people outside of Colombian can support the club, and its members. Part of the difficulty comes from the fact that sending goods to Colombia through the mail is not reliable. Using delivery services such as FedEx can be insanely expensive (as an example, sending a small book to a family member recently was going to cost me well over 100 dollars. A box of used cycling clothing could cost nearly 300 or 400 dollars). As such, I'm working on several options to help Juan Carlos and the club. Please stay tuned for more details.
This was originally published in Road Magazine
Though I've posted this video before, I think it's worth sharing again since it addresses a similar subject to the above. As I did the first time around, let me clarify that the six thousand dollar price tag discussed on this video comes as a result of how much cycling goods cost in Colombia, not because this young man wants an over-the-top super bike.