History of El Grupo
El Grupo was loosely formed in 2004 by Ignacio Rivera de Rosales and his then girlfriend – now wife – Daniela Diamente. They started with no budget, no place to meet, no team bikes, no uniforms . . . really nothing but spirit. The riders wore hand me down shorts, mismatching jerseys, and tennis shoes. All practice rides began at Ignacio’s house, in the backyard, and ended at his house, with Daniela making toast for the kids. It was affordable.
We started with eight not particularly athletic youth who just wanted to ride bikes. The group’s first big ride was Tour of the Tucson Mountains. It took almost three hours for the riders to make it across 27 miles, but they did it and, for most, it was the biggest physical achievement they’d ever accomplished. This somewhat rag-tag group of kids not only built strength, stamina, and self-esteem, they also starting building their own bikes from pieces and parts wherever they could find them. BICAS, another local biking non-profit was a big help in this effort.
During the second year, 12 riders participated in the 67-mile El Tour de Tucson. Now we had a fleet of recycled steel road bikes and matching jerseys that the kids screened themselves.This was the first time a youth group had ever participated in the El Tour race. El Grupo riders have been a part of this annual even every year since. It was official. We were a team because the riders wanted to be a team. These kids were, for the most part, not from cycling families. Many came from homes where finances were tight. Were it not for El Grupo, it’s unlikely that some of the riders would have had the resources to be involved in a team sport.
We began competing in local races – and winning! People began to notice us. Teenagers from different schools started asking if they could ride. At the end of 2007, we formed a 501(c)(3) non-profit and brought on some much needed staff. In 2008 we rented a clubhouse at 6th and 6th where we met and ended practices. Later we moved to our current location on 9th Avenue where we have two clubhouse buildings, lots of space for storing and maintaining bikes, exercise and academic areas, and office space. We now work with more than 140 youth every month, two to five days a week. Another 300 kids participate in Summer Bike Camp. We also support a bike program at El Manzo Elementary School where we have 30-35 riders each semester.
In addition to regular practice rides, we take kids on bicycle tours and weekend races. El Grupo teams are proud to have won many state championships and other awards. What we’re most proud of, however, is watching youth grow, develop, and build their confidence through our programs.
Below are some photos from our early days.