A cyclist at the service of the Pope

Next Sunday’s Road Cycling World Championship looms on the horizon and, therefore, in the next few hours, rivers of ink will be poured over men like Remco Evenepoel, Wout van Aert, Mathieu Van der Poel or Tadej Pogacar. And it is normal, they are the main contenders to succeed in Wallalong (Australia), they live in a state of full form and the expectation, in this new boring and offensive cycling, is notorious. However, aside from dreams and cabals, a peculiarity is born in the underworld of the peloton: a 40-year-old Dutchman puts on the white and yellow jersey to represent the Vatican in an international cycling event for the first time in history. He is Rien Schuurhuis, an amateur wheeler who was born in Groningen in 1982; a lover of the bicycle who, without pain or glory, tasted the honeys of professionalism (between 2016 and 2018 in the continental category) and that in Australia, a country in which he lived for years, he will fulfill a dream, “an incredible honor” . But why can this Dutchman officially represent the pontifical country? The answer is simple: Schuurhuis is married to Chiara Porro, the Australian ambassador to the Holy See. Obviously, the geographical limitations of a minimal country force them to complete their sports teams with workers from the Vatican Museums, members of the Swiss Guard and, as in this case, close relatives of the bureaucratic representatives. The conditions are met; a cyclist will race in Wallalong in the service of the Pope. Inclusion in the UCI Accompanying his wife, Schuurhuis arrived in Rome in 2020 and, from the first moment, the bicycle was a capital element in his daily life. «I live with my family in the historic center of Rome and, every day, my training starts with a warm-up on one of the busiest streets: the Lungotevere. I have to admit that it is one of the most fun parts of my training, also because of the reflexes that I have to put on in the middle of the traffic. Then, after leaving Rome, I cycle around Lake Bracciano and Lake Albano. In addition, I often take my two children for a bike ride through the cobbled streets of downtown. Between pedestrians, cars and motorcycles. It is a good way to teach them the awareness of space and the handling of the bicycle, ”says the Groningen man in a letter published by the Vatican media. Seeing Rien’s cycling desire, the Vatican Athletica (the official sports organization of the Holy See) decided to join the International Cycling Union (UCI) in September 2021, which left them free to participate in this year’s World Cup. Given this situation, the coach chosen to direct Schuurhuis was Valerio Agnoli, a former Italian professional cyclist who in his 16-year career was a good domestique of Iván Basso or Vincenzo Nibali at Astana. “We, ambassadors of His Holiness, will be with you. Fuerza Rien », points out the one from Frosinone on his social networks. Evidently, the Vatican’s options for playing a leading role in Wallalong are almost utopian. Be that as it may, Schuurhuis is confident: «We will see how the World Cup goes. I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog and would like to see a rider from an emerging cycling nation win. Eritrean Biniam Girmay, for example, has proven himself up to the task. The course suits me: I love the climbs, but I have the physique to ride on the flats. I like to get away and work with riders from other teams to get to the finish line.” In Italy they already call him ‘The Pope’s cyclist’, he has filled lines and lines of the most prestigious newspapers in the country and his character is almost cult. Regardless of what happens sportingly in Australia, Schuurhuis’ participation will be remembered. A tribute to Gino Bartali The Dutchman was inspired by Miguel Induráin for “his modesty and humility in and out of cycling”, he idolized Cipollini’s explosiveness and next Sunday he will pay tribute to one of the men who made this sport great: Gino Bartali. The Florentine won the Tour twice and the Giro three times, but his name passed into posterity during World War II, when he saved 800 Jews from Nazism. ‘Il Ginettaccio’ hid passports and other documents necessary to leave that Italy in the frame of his bicycle and, during his training, distributed them to refugees in monasteries. A feat for which he can be canonized. Likewise, this historic cyclist was a tremendously religious man who even maintained a close friendship with Pope Pius XII. As the president of Athletica Vaticana, Giampaolo Mattei, declares: «We run for Gino». Although it is new today due to the World Cup, the link between the world of bicycles and the Holy See is not new. In the 90s, the Vatican was linked to the Team & Vita (a professional team that competed in several editions of the Giro in the 90s) and in the Italian town of Como is the patron saint of cyclists: the Madonna del Ghisallo. In fact, the Giro de Lombardía passes through there, the last Monument of the year. A sports amalgam The Athletica Vaticana was created in 2019 with the idea of ​​making an official team to participate in the Small States Games and the Mediterranean Games. Little by little, sports such as paddle tennis, taekwondo or judo were added, according to the needs of the clerics and workers of the Holy See who complete these disciplines in the small country. Related News CYCLING / VUELTA A ESPAÑA standard No Movistar, saving points and a new sponsor José Carlos Carabias The telephone team almost avoided relegation with Enric Mas’s points and increases the budget But if a sport has excited the Holy See since long ago, that was football. The men’s team (which was even coached by Trapattoni) has existed since 1972, while the women’s team, promoted by a great football fan like Pope Francis, was created in 2019. It is an evidence, in the smallest country in the world, the sport flourishes.



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