The way many Latinas are built — with strong, shapely lower halves — you’d think we’d be natural cyclists. For María del P. Vázquez, that was exactly the case. When the 41-year-old started spin classes seven years ago as a way to cope with a bitter divorce, the mother of three from Caguas, Puerto Rico, discovered a hidden talent and fun hobby that led her to the ride of her life: completing the 2012 Tour de France course as part of an amateur team of Americans called the Rêve (“dream” in French). She now has the honor of being the only Puerto Rican to have completed the tough route.
What made you sign up to bike one of the world’s most grueling courses?
Well, I had been cycling longer and longer distances in Puerto Rico. I trained myself and started doing events at home, mostly just for the fun of it. But I did the Tour de France for my children and my family, especially my 81-year-old father, Anibal, a cancer survivor. I thought about him whenever I felt like quitting. The other reason I did this is to show people that I’m a regular mom with three kids. I’m not Michael Phelps. I only started biking a few years ago, and now look at me.
Biking a 21-day, 2,000-mile-long race through the Alps can’t be easy. How did you push through the pain?
I just looked at a picture of my smiling kids that I kept on my handlebar. Not giving up has really inspired my kids. Days after crossing the finish line, one son asked me what my next cycling goal is, which warmed my heart.