Christmas is a time of giving. It’s a time where charity starts at home with gift-giving and then stretches to all corners of society, with charities around the world making most of their income during the festive period. Sportspeople are no strangers to philanthropy either. Professional cyclists who may not have the same wages as other sportspeople are known to help their communities or other causes close to their hearts.
FUN – Esteban Chaves
Colombian cyclists are, stereotypically, known for their resilience. In Matt Rendell’s fine book, Colombia Es Pasion, he charts these stories where the likes of Nairo Quintana would wake up at 4 AM, help his family at their market stall before going to school and riding his bike. His days would last 18 hours of hard graft and that work rate led him to success in the professional peloton – along with his obvious talent, of course.
Other Colombian and South American riders who make it big in the World Tour are no different and a theme that seems to go along with this is their ability to give back.
For Esteban Chaves, this saw him found the Esteban Chaves Fundacion (FUN). It started as a race in January 2015 in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, with 117 riders taking part. On a nice side, the women’s winner, Jennyfer Puentes, was a rider from Chaves’ team. Since then, the foundation has gone from strength to strength, supporting young riders and their families in multiple locations. They also raced in their first Vuelta A Colombia in 2021 with a team containing Chaves’ brother Bryan.
In just six years, Chaves has supported a multitude of riders across both genders and numerous age groups to try and achieve their dreams, with his contagious smile never far away.
Gino Mäder’s Bet
Whilst some riders set up their own foundation with infrastructure and a plan, others go down the more impromptu route. Gino Mäder (who had a breakout year in 2021) goes into the second category. At La Vuelta A Espana this year, he decided, pretty much on a whim, to donate €10 for each rider he beat on each stage. He had a successful Vuelta, winning the young rider’s jersey and raising €4,569 across the three weeks. He then asked his Twitter community to put forward causes that he could support, choosing JustDiggIt and lighting up his social media in the process.
He’s not the first to use his Grand-Tour racing to raise money. When Lawson Craddock crashed badly at the Tour De France, he rode on with a fractured shoulder blade from stage two until the finish with a part of his motivation coming from raising money for his home cycle track in Houston, in what was an inspiring performance. Another EF rider, Lachlan Morton, raised more than $600,000 during his Alt Tour in 2021.
Hour Record gifts
The Hour Record is perhaps the hardest effort in the sport, going full gas for 60 minutes. Alex Dowsett is no stranger to it. What makes it perhaps harder for the Israel Start-Up Nation rider is that he lives with haemophilia – a blood disorder that affects the clotting of blood. He used his second attempt near the end of 2021 to raise awareness of Little Bleeders, his charity that supports those living with the same condition. Despite the fact he was unsuccessful in taking Victor Campenaerts’ crown, he was able to raise more than £53,000 – an incredible amount that was worth the pain for Dowsett.
Speaking on his YouTube channel, he said: “The response since has been quite overwhelming. The JustGiving page is now at over £40,000 [rising another £13,000], which is far beyond anything we ever expected, it really is. That’s quite phenomenal.”
Throughout their time in the peloton, Qhubeka has been a sponsor with a difference on the jersey since 2007. Many of you will know of their work already due to their visibility, from wins at Milan-San Remo through Gerard Ciolek to the Grand Tours. But their work goes far beyond as they have delivered more than 75,000 bikes to those who need them throughout Africa, an incredible achievement helped by their involvement in the World Tour.
Unfortunately, Qhubeka NextHash – their 2021 iteration – have not been given a World Tour licence for 2022, meaning Qhubeka will have less visibility for a great cause. But their work cannot be understated. They have given those who need a mode of transport a tool that not only speeds up their commute to school or work but opens up possibilities that were not there beforehand.
This list is not exhaustive and, like the rest of us, cyclists have a right to privacy when going about any charitable business. But whether the initiative is small – such as Red Walters who was interviewed by We Love Cycling recently, offering kits to the Grenada Cycling Foundation on his Instagram – to Qhubeka’s work over the last nearly 15 years, it is important that no matter the time of year, if you can give back. No matter the amount, it will be worth it.