The Yuma Bike Club has seen many facelifts since the organization was founded in 2007 and is undergoing another as it prepares for its first triathlon under current president Ariel Cortez.
Since Cortez joined up with the club, he's been ecstatic with the results.
“For me, the mission is just to teach these kids who may or may not be into a sport, to present that in a safe environment and hopefully move on from there. It is an NCAA sport, so it's endless. Any college can say, ‘Hey, you did this?' We're just building those portfolios in these young athletes.”
Cortez has recruited coaches to help the young athletes with all three facets of their triathlon game, including former Turkish national team middle distance runner Aybuke Keehn, who is now a faculty member at Arizona Western College.
The hardest part still for Cortez and his coaches is instilling in the athletes that they can do more than one thing well.
“That's the struggle, because they don't see,” Cortez said. “They think that all they know is running. I say, ‘Hey, here's a $2,000 bike, try it.' And they realize, hey, I'm actually decent. Some are a little bit intimidated, but if you're good at two, say run and swim, you're ahead of everybody anyway. If you can ace two, you're already ahead.”
The club has been showing off its running skills at races in Yuma as well as in the Phoenix area. Bike club member Keondre Willoughby earned first place in the 2013 Great Yuma Road Race. He ran a 24:58 in the 10-12 age group.
“There's anxiety (for the kids),” Cortez said. “But the coaches see that spark and they just are waiting for the kids to see it. Everybody's there, the potential's there, the kids just don't see it. It's a small-town mentality. We went to Phoenix and the kids realized they're faster than they think they are.”
The Yuma Bike Club TRI team holds running practices every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Carver Park Track and swimming practice every Saturday from 6:45 to 8 a.m. at Marcus City Pool.
The bicyclists get together every day at 4 p.m. at the Chevron station on 32nd Street and Avenue B. From there, they take off for San Luis and back.
“We're trying to get these guys cross-trained so that they can do bike, swim and run efficiently and competitively,” Cortez said.
For more information, visit www.yumabikeclub.org.