In the mid 1980's, American cycling was just getting a foothold in European racing. Greg LeMond was, by far, our best hope to take the leap from pioneer to head of state. Yet, LeMond was not the only American over there, Andy Hampsten, Ron Kiefel, and a sprinter named Davis Phinney all made their mark with the 7-11 team.
Also, part of that team was a young Mexican rider named Raul Alcala.
Alcala won the Best Young Rider Award at the 1987 Tour De France and earned a top ten in the process before coming to the US and winning the Coors Classic. He followed that success with two eighth-place finishes and two stage wins in the 89 and 90 Tours.
Triumphs in the Tour du Trump and the one day Classico de San Sebastion added to his palmares and made him one of the top riders in the world during the late 80's and early 90's.
Unlike American cycling, which has flourished in the past two decades with multiple Tour victories, podiums in the Giro and a win in the Vuelta, a thriving domestic race scene, four Top Division teams with American registry and multiple Continental teams.
While American riders have found success across the world, no one has followed Alcala to the top of world cycling. Now, almost 20 years later we are still waiting for the next great Mexican rider to follow his lead.
A New Start...
In February of this year, three young Mexican amateurs ventured to Walla Walla, Washington, to be a part of a new U25 team, Firefighters Cycling. Far from warm weather and the comforts of home cooking, these three took a chance on a new program without a title sponsor and raced in cold wet Northwest winter conditions. Among the firsts for these three, were riding in the snow, racing with teammates who didn't speak a word of Spanish and a steady diet of Starbucks.
In the teams first two races on American soil, the pioneers won both in cold wet conditions that came closer to Belgium than Mexico City. Of course, winning your first two races puts a target squarely on your back and in the remaining late winter races across Washington and Oregon the team and specifically the Mexican riders of Firefighters Cycling would be marked every time they made a move.
In part two the team gets a taste of stage races in the US and earn a medal at Pan American Championships.