Vatican athletes compete in World Cycling Championships

Cyclist Rien Schuurhuis

 ROME - - Athletes from the Vatican City, as part of a team known as Athletica Vaticana, are competing at the World Cycling Championships in Glasgow.

 Vatican cyclists will participate in the Championships - between 2 and 6 August - in spiritual communion with Pope Francis and the young people who, at the same time, will be in Lisbon for World Youth Day. 

 This is the second time the 'Pope's team' have participated in an event like this, after the debut at the World Cup 2022 in Australia.

 Between 2 and 6 August a 'sports bridge' - supported by the arches of fraternity, solidarity and inclusion - will unite Lisbon and Glasgow. The cyclists will pedal spiritually on that 'bridge' to truly be brothers also in sport.

 On Thursday, two Vatican athletes (Rino Alberto Bellapadrona and Marcus Bergmann) will be at the start of the Gran Fondo, and on Sunday, an athlete (Rien Schurrhuis) will take part in the elite race with some of the strongest cyclists in the world.

 In the style of Athletica Vaticana, and in solidarity with the World Youth Day experience youth, in Glasgow there will not ‘just’ be cycling. On Saturday, the Vatican cyclists will embrace the Vincentian "Ozanam" community which takes in those in poverty. The meeting is organised with the Archdiocese of Glasgow.

 The yellow-white bicycle (donated by Pinarello) on which Schurrhuis, on Saturday, will ride in the Championships will be auctioned and the proceeds will be donated to the Vatican’s Santa Marta paediatric dispensary. The clinic assists 500 poor families with small children.

 In a press release from the Vatican, Schurrhuis remarked: “We will bear witness to the fraternal and inclusive vision of Pope Francis. Sport is for everyone and everyone in sport has the same dignity. That is why it is also a way to find paths of unity and peace, recognising the richness of our diversity with a common language that everyone can understand.”

 He added: “With this sporting community spirit I can verify that I never feel alone when I cycle: we are truly a community and no one is alone. Cycling teaches this experience of being together, it is a 'group' that supports each other and never leaves those left behind alone. I have trained to the best of my ability, on the roads of Rome and around the lakes of Albano and Bracciano. So did my two teammates who will be racing the Gran Fondo.” 

 On July 8 Athletica Vaticana put some of these children, who live in poverty and arrived with their parents in Italy on migration routes, on bikes. They learnt to pedal right in front of the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.

 Their presence in the official race at the World Cycling Championships is possible due to recognition granted by the Union International Cycling Union in September 2021.