The Ride: Daniel Jaramillo’s rise up the U.S. cycling ranks
From coffee beans to competition: Daniel Jaramillo’s rise up the U.S. cycling ranks
Daniel Jaramillo was 13 years old and growing coffee beans in rural Jardin, Colombia when a government sports program, designed to foster young talent, noticed his running ability.
But instead of running shoes, the program put him on a bike to test his potential. Up until that point, Jaramillo had never owned one, but never looked back.
Fast forward to 2007. Jaramillo was a rising star on his regional cycling team, which is known for producing some of the best Colombian cyclists in the last two decades. He quickly made his way up the Colombian cycling ranks to become one of the biggest climbing talents in the country.
A contract with an American team was the next step. After seasoned veteran and now teammate, Janier Acevedo, recommended him as “the best young talent in Colombia,” Jaramillo entered the world of US professional bike racing at 23 years old.
Starting out with Team Jamis, Jaramillo depended on his natural ability to get by in races. However, when he made the jump to the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team and the level got higher, Jaramillo needed some structured coaching and basic guidance, something he surprisingly lacked. This year, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s High Performance Director Ben Day has also taken on the role of his personal coach.
“He’s teaching me how to eat, how to drink, how to recover, practically everything,” Jaramillo said. “I didn’t know any of those things before.”
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Team Director Sebastian Alexandre also plays a significant part in both Jaramillo’s athletic and personal development.
“It wasn’t easy for me when I came to the states,” said Alexandre, who is originally from Argentina. “I didn’t hear many good things about South America. I know there are good things and bad things about every place in the world. so I try to give opportunities to young people and show that they aren’t only good athletes, but good people.”
Alexandre’s mission has made him somewhat of a father figure to young Spanish speaking riders like Jaramillo, a role he’s clearly passionate about.
“When they come here, they know nothing about the U.S., how to manage themselves, where to live, how to get a cell phone, things like that. So I teach the kids basic stuff that’s normal for Americans, but not for them. I want to help them grow.”
It’s been four years since Jaramillo began his career in the states. He might be getting the hang of being a professional bike racer, but something that remains an everyday struggle is English. He considers communication the most difficult part of living abroad.
What’s the best thing? The classic cars, of course.
“I grew up only seeing American cars on TV,” Jaramillo said. “To see them in person is always so much fun for me.”