What is normality?


    According to the dictionary, it’s “the state of being usual, typical, or expected.” In cycling we speak often about what is not normal and goes beyond the expectations: we expect the pro riders to put exceptional performances, above the norm of ourselves dilettantes. But did you ever ask what it mean to be a normal cyclist?

    In a way, being a normal cyclist has more to do with the usual joy and challenges of being a cyclist. They can be as diverse as a long Sunday ride, a challenge with some mates, a boundary pushed further, and maybe the goal of racing at an iconic race like the Nove Colli. 


    The riders from the Genesis Cycling Team are no different. They are normal cyclist like you and me – the only thing that Jaunjo rides with one harm and one leg only; Claudia and Joan with a prothesis as a second leg. And they just raced the Nove Colli! We don’t know you, but we would for sure call that exceptional – and yet for them it feels normal. 



    Juanjo Mendez- one of the founder of Genesis Cycling Team

    The Genesis Cycling Team was founded in 2002 by Jaunjo Mendez and is based in Barcelona. He was already a cyclist before his life-changing accident. In 1992, Jaunjo fainted at the helm of his motorcycle, crashing into a car at 100 km/h. The incident led to the amputation of his left arm and leg. It took 54 litres of blood transfusion and four months in a coma, but he survived and after some recovery, once again took to cycling – albeit with an adapted bicycle – thanks to his best friend, and co-founder of the team, Bernat Moreno. 


    18 years after his incident, and Jaunjo won his first rainbow jersey – not what you will call an average cyclist. Now, he dedicates himself to the team, supported by brands like MET Helmets. His aim is to prove that disabilities don’t stop riders from succeeding on the bike, and instead it can be used to heal after traumatic events. 


    Jaunjo explained a bit more about the team:


    “We founded Genesis because Bernat and I discovered that there was no one to help the disabled or people through the sport. We also created the inclusive school. I think it's one of the only ones that is truly inclusive, open to all kind of the people. Sometimes people don't believe that they can ride a bike, or ride a horse, or do any sport, then they see you doing it, they say: wow, I can do it too!"


    Two of these riders are Joan Del Rio and Claudia Grau. Joan Del Rio lost his lower left limb a few years ago after being hit by a truck driver while Rio was on a bike ride. For him the team helped him from the start:


    “Bernat and Juanjo went to visit me when I was at the hospital and the invited me to join them and try to bike again. I had never imagined that I could enjoy what I am enjoying now, despite the accident. Now I don't work and I don't do many other things, but when I go cycling, it allows me to enjoy my day-to-day life a lot.”

    Claudia Grau, on her side, lost her limb due to a medical error and heard about the team online.

    “I discover Genesis Cycling Team thanks to a video of Jaunjo. […] He’s my source of inspiration for everything he represents, beyond what he has achieved. The truth is when you have someone [like him] who is in a worse state than you are, you can’t complain. It has helped me a lot to try everything before saying that I can’t. For me cycling, apart from the freedom, means a lot and I have learned how to suffer and then transfer it to my daily life. So, it’s something that I don’t want to stop feeling.”


    When we asked them if they wanted to race the 130km of the Nove Colli, they didn’t hesitate and were in for this challenge. A race that is for sure not a piece of cake, but they were ready for it. But sadly, due to the flood, the Nove Colli 2023 was postponed from May to September. We were not sure if everyone could still make it, but we did! 


    We’ve agreed to meet one day before the race to create content together. What struck me is how they were speaking very openly about what happened, and which challenge they were facing. Juanjo admit it with a big laugh: “Bernat and I, we love making jokes, and especially jokes about myself, about the fact that I was missing a leg and an arm, and that I was more handsome, and such nonsense.” 


    Taking with the team makes you also discover that things that seem easy, like to drink during riding, could be extremely difficult. A specific system has to be created in order to allow Jaunjo to drink while riding.

    He wasn’t driking before they came up with this solution.

    His bike is also heavily modified with one crank arm only, half handlebar, a dedicated support close to the saddle and a brake leaver that controls the front and rear caliper in the same time.


    “When I was a beginner, I started with a track bike, and I was riding with the normal handlebar, with the two cranks, without a crutch where I could lean. At the beginning I had many problems in the elbow, tendinitis and such.

    Now I go with the handlebar cut, one crank arm and I brake two wheels with one lever. Now people look at us and are taking inspiration of what we have done to the adapt my bike.“


    Claudia and Juan on the other hand have to change their prothesis in order to be able to go biking.

    They use a full mechanical prothesis (compare to their electrically enhanced prothesis they used on a daily basis). They also use a specific envelope for the leg in order to avoid bruises. Underneath the prothesis is screwed the cleat, the same you will find under your cycling shoes. That’s very serious, a kind a ritual they take with a big smile! We will shoot from sunrise to sunset, a long day just before the race.

    The next day, they were all on the starting line around 6.30 am. Claudia, Juanjo and Joan were waiting among 1000 other cyclists that were composing the first wave. What a better example of being inclusive than racing all together, without separation between any type of riders. Embracing the diversity is blending it into the culture of cycling. 


    Jaunjo, Claudia and Joan nailed the mass start, eviting any collision that might happen in those cases, and they disappeared in the crowd. It would take me some time to catch up with Claudia and Joan thanks to the “press” moto that carried me. And it’s only after more than 30 min that I’ve finally managed to catch up with Jaunjo. Just to tell how the man was pushing. He was sitting in a good group, at a very good pace. He teamed up with a rider and they were doing relays in the long straits that were heading towards the mountains.


    It was pouring rain the night before, making the ground slippery and soaked. The weather was still uncertain, adding to the difficulties of these 130km. Jaunjo kept a good pace despite the freezing cold on the first pass, and the harsh rain on the second. On the famous col of Barbotto, on a dim mist, Jaunjo was supported by Bernat and Paolo. The slope was so steep that, due to his bike, he could tip over. They had to put their hands on his back and run with him in order to prevent this from happening. In these circumstances, you suddenly realize the incredible effort Jaunjo is doing. I decided to wait there Claudia and Joan, who were 40 minutes away from Jaunjo. You can tell how hard is the effort by looking at their grim faces, but they hold on and clear the last big difficulties of the day.


    Joan and Claudia have decided to do the race together, and they will follow each other until the finish line. They joined some groups of riders, catching some, being dropped by others.  The will reach the finish line under a bright sun. Race done, time to get the medal of the Nove Colli and to have some rest – and a good beer.


    Their take? A classic cyclist comments at the finish line: “it went well, it was hard but fun, can we do it again next year?” 


    Jaunjo, Claudia and Joan cleared the race of 130km and 1871m in approximatively 7 hours. Funny story, Jaunjo was accompanied all the race by the rider he was with after the start.


    They waited each other and shared the race events together – that’s the spirit of cycling at its finest, chapeau. 


    The Genesis team went back to Spain after the Nove Colli. They will keep training hard for the next challenges. 


    Claudia said: “I train once a day, because I work as an art director in an advertising agency. I do 2 or 3 hours in the morning, 3 times a week.  And in the afternoon, I go to the velodrome with the team. We do an hour, an hour and a half. And on Saturday we do 80, 90, 100 km more or less.”


    For Joan, the training is a big source of motivation. “The fact of training every day gives me the desire to continue enjoying life, my family and my daughters. Having Juanjo as a reference helps me because otherwise, I wouldn't be as competitive, I would take a more recreational approach to cycling. The fact of seeing Juanjo winning so many medals motivates me a lot, and even if it is very hard to train, it brings me a lot of joy, it is an indescribable thing.”


    Juanjo on his hand will continues to train and to help all the riders to find a meaning though cycling. “The Geneis team has a school with people who have cerebral paralysis, who are amputated, who have psychic disorders, or who are “normal”. Here at Genesis, we do the same to everyone, we understand and we help everyone.” 


    There is no better definition of inclusion than this one. There is no differentiation, everyone is understood, cared and share the same passion. At the end of the weekend, we all learned important lessons thanks to Claudia, Joan and Jaunjo. Lessons of resilience, perseverance, passion, joy and happiness despite how rough life can be. On a personal level, this remembered me that cycling is often more than a sport – it’s a way to connect with ourselves, the others and to escape from our problems on two wheels. 

    We can come from different backgrounds, we can have different motivations and goals while riding; we can use cycling as a medicine, a way of expression or just as a sport; we can be weak or strong; at the end of the day, we are all normal cyclist because we cycle no matter what.

    Special thanks to: 

    • Genesis Cycling Team: Bernat, Juanjo, Claudia, Joan and Paolo Penni.
    • MET Helmets for this project


    We’re taking a well deserved break!

    Shipments will be sent until 12:00 on the 22nd of December and will restart on January 8th.

    We thank you for your support. Happy riding!