Andrés Brenes, Lico Ramírez, José Adrián Bonilla, Henry Raabe, Gregory Brenes, Kenneth Tencio… The list is endless. Cartago has provided countless high-level cyclists, who not only succeed on Costa Rican roads. They have also given a lecture on their conditions in other latitudes, including the most important races in the world.
But it is not just about cyclists who have become legends of the sport of pedals. Promises keep appearing to them who dream of emulating their exploits. The last to appear is the young Dylan Jiménez -a native of Orosi-, who was officially announced last Tuesday as a new member of the Spanish team Lizarte. This team has recruited several Costa Rican riders, including Andrey Amador.
What will be the key to the high performance of the Carthaginian cyclists? Is it the climate, the terrain, or the way of preparation? There is that, and other things, according to 3 experts consulted by El Observador.
Land of champions
For a long time, Cartago has had great quality cyclists and not only from a specific area. Already in the 1980s Albin Brenes stood out and, a decade later, his brother Andrés, both from downtown Cartago.
Andrés had the honor of being the first Costa Rican to run with a professional team in the United States. He then he did the same but in mountain biking. It was in this discipline, precisely, that he achieved a meritorious sixth place.
Other figures stood out from towns such as Cot, on the way to the Irazú Volcano to the Orosí Valley. Federico “Lico” Ramírez, champion of the Vuelta a Costa Rica and a figure in mountain biking, is precisely from Cot. From Capellades comes Gregory Brenes, also winner of the country’s top tour. And from very close, in Pacayas, comes Kevin Rivera, who makes his first weapons in international cycling. Adrián Víquez, a farmer from Tierra Blanca, had his moment of glory by winning the ‘Vuelta a Costa Rica’ in 1993.
For its part, Paraíso became a hotbed for important road users. Among them, José Adrián Bonilla stands out, who in addition to winning the Costa Rican tour twice, ran in Spain. The brothers José and Elías Vega also ran in that country, and just now the young Dylan Jiménez will do so.
Another Bonilla, named Daniel, and also from Paraíso, was the last winner of the Costa Rican tour, suspended since 2019 due to Covid. We cannot fail to mention the paralympic Henry Raabe, who before suffering a serious accident was twice champion of the Vuelta a Costa Rica; and Kenneth Tencio, the brand new Pan American BMX champion and who scratched the bronze medal at the Tokyo Games.
Cartago is an ideal province for cycling, because it has all kinds of terrain, explained former cyclist and current coach Andrés Brenes. “We have high altitude routes very close, such as Cerro de la Muerte, Irazú Volcano, hot land, such as the Turrialba Valley. And the El Guarco, Tobosi and Coris route, which with its 20 or 25 kilometers is perhaps the longest flat terrain in the GAM, and at 1,375 meters above sea level. These are ingredients that optimize the development of talents in the practice of cycling”, said the former champion of the 1995 Vuelta a Costa Rica.
Rafael Calderón, a trainer with four decades of experience, recognizes the benefits of training in Cartago and the great advantage that the locals have of training with such diverse topographies in such a short distance. “Since there is so much mountainous terrain, the Cartago cyclist must get used to going up and down, that gives him a lot of regularity”, he said.
Calderón, who was the coach of the San José Sports Committee, used to take his cyclists to Cartago to train, including Andrey Amador, the best Costa Rican cyclist of all time. Precisely, to reach his best level for international competitions, Amador conducts special training in Cartago. In fact, his parents currently live in Cartago, so many think that the traveler is a native of the province. Dylan Jiménez is, for now, the latest in a long list of Carthaginian cyclists who have made their way onto the international scene (courtesy Dylan Jiménez)
Other key factors
But the terrain is not the only thing that favors the cyclists of Cartago. Aspects such as a good diet and the absence of other distractions of the young people who live in the most remote areas help to improve their development in the discipline, according to Calderón. The strategist also pointed out promotion as a key element. On the one hand, the support of the private sector, as Almacén González did in his time, whose most brokers were from the area.
The other is that a successful cyclist is a source of pride for everyone. “They become icons that young people want to imitate,” reflected the coach. And elements that seem very simple can make a difference. “Being with them, helping them as much as possible and even pampering them so they feel good motivates them to do better”, says Alejandro Meza, coach of the Paraíso cycling team, one of the province’s hotbeds.
Meza acknowledges that the support of the Sports Committee of his canton and even his own resources to obtain bicycles and financial aid has served for many young road warriors to continue competing. The technician commented, among his anecdotes, there was a boy named Daniel Bonilla who came to some competitions they were doing on a mountain biking track in Paraíso.
After inviting him to run, they were surprised when he came in second place, so they immediately recruited him. And since he did not have a racing bike, Meza gave him one that he had so he could race. Years later, that young man became the last champion of the Tour of Costa Rica. Finally, in addition to innate talent and conditions, all these champions have been characterized by their character, perseverance and desire to go far, the specialists agreed. It is possible that in the short term another Costa Rican, this time from the Old Metropolis, can be seen standing out in the main international competitions