Legends that Inspire - Team Survive
Some of the most inspiring moments from our first two editions of La Leyenda have been of amateur cyclists pushing themselves to the limit, often after a fall or simply just to reach the daily cut off time at the end of each stage. For a lot of entrants the race is usually their goal for the year and in many cases the most physically and mentally demanding adventure they've ever taken on. La Leyenda is of course open to all amateurs and there are some who've climbed their own additional mountains and won races against much bigger opponents just to get to the start ramp. One of these teams was Team Survive, made up of Paulo and Jorge Hernandez, amateur cyclists from Medellín.
Paulo, 38 and Jorge, 34, had the dream of racing La Ruta de Conquistadores in 2014. However, shortly before the trip to Costa Rica, Jorge was diagnosed with testicular cancer and forced to cancel his registration. A year later, however, and after surgery and a change in lifestyle, he'd made a full recovery and did make it Costa Rica where he proudly finished in the top 100 places. Jorge and Paulo then decided they'd take on the inaugural Leyenda del Dorado in their home country in 2016, only for lightning to tragically strike twice, but this time it was Paulo who'd been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He too had to postpone his race, as well as also giving up cycling for 9 months during his recovery.
Life throws up challenges to us all, often at the most unexpected of times, but it's how you react that defines who you are, as Paulo describes, "Life is a race in itself and everyone takes it at their own pace, but unfortunately at times it gets difficult, like with my cancer diagnosis. However, I decided to take the disease on and upon defeating it, I realised what it is to overcome your own obstacles. I then wanted to show myself I was still capable of bigger and better things, so I decided to race La Leyenda with Jorge.”
After his full recovery, Paulo, founder of his own forestry company, and Jorge, a civil engineer for Colombian energy firm EPM, teamed up to do what they couldn't in 2016, take on La Leyenda 2017, now as Team Survive with the intention to show that cancer is simply once more race to be overcome, by setting achievable goals and believing in what you can do. Paulo suffered a nasty fall during the prologue, but the pair kept going and put in a very impressive performance, finishing 13th in their category, and Jorge now becoming one of just 14 people who've finished both Legends to date.
The daunting prospect of a seven stage race makes many amateurs nervous, but approaching it with the right attitude is just as important as your physical preparation, to give you the best chance of finishing.
"Racing La Leyenda becomes a personal challenge, where the main opponent is yourself, as you push your mental limits just as much as you do physically. You need to have a clear goal, but it's also important not to worry too much about other teams, and focus on the many times when you keep going and not giving in, which will gradually carry you to the finish line," said Jorge, when asked about how he's approached both Leyendas after his fight with cancer.
Stories like that of Team Survive, Nelson Cardona, and numerous other amateurs, all show that La Leyenda is an achievable goal for any amateur cyclist, and no matter where you finish and how many ups and downs you've suffered, receiving your Finisher's tshirt and medal after the final stage can be one of the most important and satisfying victories of your life.