La Leyenda inspiring the Next Generation
As well as being a multi-stage mountain bike race, La Leyenda is also an opportunity to positively impact the towns and communities the seven day route passes through, some of which are still very much developing socially and economically. Towns such as Km 41 and Aranzazu embraced La Leyenda with open arms, using the presence of so many international riders to inspire the students in their schools and encourage spectators to watch the race as it weaved its way through their streets and squares.
In Salamina the cafeteria, technical support and bike park were located in one of the local schools, La Institución Educativa Sara Ospina, which created a wonderful atmosphere as students asked riders for their autographs at meal times, as well querying them about their bikes and posing for lots of pictures too. As a way of expressing our gratitude to the Rectora, Blanca Loaiza, and her students for letting us 'take over' for 2 days, we held a Question and Answer session with a group of students and six of our professional cyclists.
Paolo Montoya and Milagro Mena, both Specialized Costa Rica riders, Pau Zamora and Joan Llordella from Team Buff-Scott, Spain, and Specialized Venezuela's Liliana Uzcategui and Miguel Rondón shared experiences of their careers with 40 keen and inquisitive students of various ages. Questions ranged from "Do your legs hurt on climbs?" to "Where have you raced in the world?" for well over an hour. At the end students that had been listening attentively won prizes for correctly answering information about the riders and some will no doubt have been inspired to ride their bikes that evening, or treat their next team practice a bit more seriously after hearing of the positive impact sport can have on their lives from the cyclists. Salamina is home to an excellent downhill mountain bike track, used during Stage 3, Cross - Country, so they're in the perfect practice ground too!
"It was a wonderful, enriching experience to host La Leyenda in the town and in our school. It allowed the students and all the staff to interact and get to know people from different parts of the world, thus helping them learn about new cultures, languages and experiences," quoted Blanca Loaiza, Rector of Institución Educativa Sara Ospina.
As we'll be back in Salamina in 2018 the students can be sure that we'll repeat such an activity and hopefully involve even more of them!