El Grupo Youth Cycling was loosely formed in 2004 by Ignacio Rivera de Rosales and Daniela Diamente. We began with no budget, no place to meet, no team bikes, no uniforms—really nothing but spirit and enthusiasm. Starting with eight not particularly athletic youth who just wanted to ride bikes (as part of an elective class at City High School), the group’s first big ride was the Tour of the Tucson Mountains. It took almost three hours for the riders to make it across 27 miles, but they did it and it was the biggest, proudest physical achievement of their lives.
Shortly thereafter, youth asked if they could ride more often and work towards a bigger goal. We wore hand me down shorts, mismatching jerseys, and tennis shoes, but we grew stronger as a “group” with every mile. All practice rides began and ended in the backyard of Daniela and Ignacio’s house, gathering around a table eating toast. It was affordable and accessible. From there, per youth riders’ desires, El Grupo blossomed and grew.
Teenagers from different schools started asking if they could ride. At the end of 2007, we formed a 501(c)(3) non-profit – but remained fully volunteer-run for several more years. In 2008, we leased our first Clubhouse at 6th and 6th where we started and ended practices. Over the years, we established team jerseys and a fleet of recycled bikes for mountain and road racing. It was official; we were a team. The kids were, for the most part, not from cycling families and many from low-income families. If it were not for El Grupo, it’s unlikely that most of them would have had the resources to be involved.
We went on bicycle tours; we started to compete in local races; we did bike safety outreach with younger kids; we won many State Championships. In 2014 we moved into part of our current location on 9th Avenue where we now have two clubhouse buildings, lots of space for storing and maintaining bikes, exercise and academic areas, and office space. We have grown our programs and the diversity of youth we serve. We have sent kids to Nationals, USA cycling development camps, and even World Championships.
However, it is not the races we have won that we are most excited about; not the many first place finishes the team has been a part of. It’s the fact that ALL of the kids from the original team have earned a high school degree and gone on to some level of higher education; that every kid that has graduated from El Grupo is a life-long bike-lover; that many El Grupo youth alumni are working in bike shops around the country, and they are coming back to work for El Grupo; that the many programs of the organization now are comprised of kids who expect things from themselves and are willing to try harder than they ever thought possible; and that they are setting and achieving life goals that have nothing to do with cycling, but everything to do with being good citizens.
El Grupo has gone from a rag-tag group of kids riding bikes to a respectable youth development organization with a variety of programs. These programs have reached thousands of youth over the years. There are programs for kids who want to adventure on their bikes and go camping. We have programs for the beginner rider that wants to gain skills and confidence; and we have programs for youth who want to challenge themselves physically in the sport and be part of a team. Just as it was in the beginning, every program of El Grupo focuses on helping kids be their best and getting more youth riding bikes than ever before. Our mission continues to be to empower youth through bicycles!
From 2019-2020 Daniela and Ignacio took their bikes, loaded them up and rode through Europe and South America with their 10-year-old son, Damiano.
To read a detailed timeline of El Grupo’s history, please click here.
Here are some photos from our very early days. Enjoy!