From fear to love: the story of Esteban Chaves in cycling

From fear to love: the story of Esteban Chaves in cycling

“Get up, you have to continue!”, He heard his father Jairo screaming, while he discovered himself on the floor with half scraped face. On the BMX track in Bogota, he did not manage to take the last curve and before the words of his father, he frowned, he was filled with pride, he finished the test and decided that it was the end. He returned wounded to the tribune, with tearful eyes and handed over the bicycle: “I do not want to know more about this.” Esteban Chaves was seven years old.

Falling and getting back up

He had grown up watching his dad ride on circuits of the National University and in amateur competitions. It was Esteban who passed the tires, the pump, the wheels, the hydration. It was he who encouraged him on a climb in the Alto La Cuchilla in a cold that he could not resist. “Dad, this cycling is very hard,” he told her when he quit, covered himself with a blanket and tried to drink a Tinto while chatting.

Esteban’s premature retirement from cycling frustrated Jairo, who regretted shouting at him after the crash on the BMX track; and saddened his wife Carolina, who scolded Jairo for his rudeness. They both knew that he had talent, that a year after his birth the boy kept his balance on a bicycle without auxiliary wheels. But the two had to support him in the decision. They insisted, yes, that he could chose another sport.

Esteban Chaves with his Father, Jairo, and his mother after his win in the Tour de l'Avenir
Esteban Chaves with his Father Jairo and his mother Carolina after his win in the Tour de l’Avenir 2011

Swimming, after a few classes, did not persuade him, and he leaned towards athletics. His leanness favored him in the long distance tests, and he stood out in district races. In one of them, disputed in Soacha, he was leading a competition of 300 children in the absence of a few meters, but turned his head to calculate the distance of his pursuers, his feet got tangled, he slipped and finished seventh.

The falls were no longer a topic of conversation. Esteban had already internalized the idea of ​​perseverance and Jairo let himself be convinced by Carolina that insisting on the phrase of falling and getting up could become pressure. Esteban ran to have fun and everyone supported him.

“This is my thing”

The return to the bicycle was thanks to athletics. His father told him about a race that the members of his amateur cycling club in Guatavita were organizing. It was a race that mixed both sports: three kilometers running and 10 pedaling.

– My son, it’s a duathlon. As you run and I ride, we go with you.

Happy because Esteban accepted, Jairo Chaves searched for the bike for the race and they offered him one that Oliver Cárdenas himself (Esteban’s trainer in Colombia) had made years ago for his son. It was small, personalized, authentic and borrowed with the commitment of a possible purchase. Everything depended on Esteban. And he swept everyone away in athletics, as expected, and surprised everyone on the bike.

Dad and son met after the competition, they embraced smiling and talked about the future still without air in the longs to say any long sentence.

“This is my thing, dad”

“What thing?”

“Cycling. I want to be a cyclist”


“I’m sure. This is my thing”

“What happiness! I support it, even if I have to take the money that does not exist”

Jairo Chaves promised to pay the 1’200.000 pesos of the borrowed bicycle and was excited because his son could fulfill the dream that he didn’t follow. In his house, where study and work were the only alternative, he was not allowed to be a cyclist. He was not going to make the same mistakes, so he started training and talked to him for the first time about strategies. “You have to be smart, you have to know how to read the races …”

Young Esteban Chaves with team Colombia es Pasion, with team mates NAiro Quintana and Jarlinson Pantano.
Young Esteban Chaves with team Colombia es Pasion, with team mates NAiro Quintana and Jarlinson Pantano.

My Hero

They went out to pedal around the limits of Bogotá when they could: to Alto el Vino (via La Vega), Patios (via La Calera), Mondoñedo (via La Mesa) and alto de Rosas (via Silvania). They were battling in some sections and almost always Jairo won, but Esteban was gaining little by little. A long time later Jairo would confess that he began to let him win. Esteban: “He did it to show me that if I could beat him, my hero, I could beat anyone.” And he achieve it.

The funny thing is that Esteban is now Jairo’s hero for one simple reason: through him he fulfilled his dream of being a champion of cycling.

This article was originally published on Señal Colombia

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