Gravel Inspiration - The Boy Who Dreamed of the Rainbow Jersey

If you grow up in a household full of cyclists there’s a pretty high chance that you’ll fall in love with a life on two wheels too. This was certainly the case for Jorge Padrones who held a childhood memory of Belgian legend Freddy Maertens bedecked in the coveted UCI World Road Cycling Champion’s jersey and decided that one day he wanted one of his own. In the recent UCI Gravel World Championships, Jorge finally had the chance to make his dreams comes true. 

I still remember the first time I saw the World Champion jersey. I was 4 or 5 years old and I saw a poster of Freddy Maertens in a garage where I went with my father and I asked him what jersey it was. I think from that day on, the legend of the World Champion was born for me.

I am a cyclist, or rather I was a cyclist as a child, brother of a cyclist, son of a cyclist and the grandson of a cyclist. In my house we have breathed cycling for as long as I can remember and we watched all the races and read all the cycling newspaper and magazines.

I grew up in the lower categories, racing my first race when I was 4 years old, there were only two of us – me and my friend Sevillano, with whom I still share routes from time to time, even after so many years. My idols were Hinault, Saroni, Moser and I remember them all wearing the pristine white jersey with the rainbow bands on the chest.

Of all the races and classics of the season, the world championship was always special for me. I remember those afternoons vibrating with Juan Fernández dressed in that mythical grey jersey with the national flag while he won a medal in the world championship.

Obviously, I dreamed of being a professional and prestigious cyclist one day and in my dreams, I saw myself dressed as a rainbow. What I would have liked most was to win a world championship.

Luckily or unfortunately, life in the end wanted to take me along other non-cycling paths. An injury during my youth and life itself made me move further and further away from the bike. I barely touched a bike for more than 20 years and became an obese person who at one point smoked two packs of tobacco a day.

Since life takes so many turns, a turn in my professional career gave me more free time. Encouraged by the mountain bike races that I had seen on TV, I was inspired to buy a very basic mountain bike and I signed up for the Titan Desert race the following year, still with my 30 extra kilos and my two packs of cigarettes a day.

Step by step I was training more, getting in shape, losing kilos and quitting smoking. A few years later, some of my top colleagues were trying to qualify for the XC MTB marathon world championship and I already thought it would be nice to try and do so too.

The years went by and I started riding gravel. Then, just last year the UCI announced that they were going to hold a gravel world championship and I saw that there would be a qualifying event in Spain. I was a newbie in the Master 50 category and I thought I would have possibilities, so I set it as a goal.

Just a few weeks before the World Championships, an unfortunate fall caused me to fracture my collarbone and I was unable to be on the start line. The recovery of my broken clavicle was very long and took many months. During my recovery, all I was thinking about was April, about La Indomable, the first UCI qualifying event of the year.

Because of my injury, I couldn't prepare thoroughly and on the downhills, I had a lot of problems, but I gathered my courage and fought with everything I had to achieve that classification. I managed to qualify, doing one of my best-ever races. 

From then until the day of the world championship, all I thought about was that I was going to ride in a World Championship - I was going to make one of my dreams come true. Obviously, it is not the elite road world championship, but it is the closest I can (and will be able to) get at this moment in my life.

The big day arrived and I enjoyed it like never before, three steps across the finish line in which I felt something special, it was a world championship. I gave it my all, I rode in the lead for 1/3 of the race and I had fun.

I will always remember the moment I crossed the finish line, having given everything and having enjoyed a dream, tears of joy fell and I hugged my wife and time stopped.

I didn't win the rainbow jersey, but I can say that I fought for it and out of respect I will never wear any jersey with the rainbow bands, because only the one who wins it should wear it and even more so after having fought for it.

I will continue to dream of that jersey and I will continue to look with admiration at those who wear it, the rainbow jersey. 

Jorge Padrones

Jorge is based in Spain and is a regular on the start-line of different gravel events across Europe and further afield too.

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