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A cyclist in the Vatican spreads the Pope’s message to the world

In this undated photo made available by Athletic Vaticana on Thursday, September 22, 2022, Dutch-born cyclist Ryan Schorhuis, center, poses with his team in front of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Schuurhuis will compete for the Vatican in a road race on Sunday, September 25, 2022 at the Cycling World Championships in Wollongong, Australia. It is the first time the Vatican has joined a team for this event. Chiara Burrow, Shuroes’ wife, is Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See. (Ivan Somonti/Atletica Vaticana)

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Vatican City – white helmet like the bonnet of the Pope.

The Holy See’s cross keys are stamped on his white shirt and yellow on his heart.

Dutch-born cyclist Rien Schuurhuis carries a tremendous sense of duty as he races for the Vatican in a road race on Sunday at the Cycling World Championships in Wollongong, Australia – marking the first time the city-state’s growing use of sport as a tool for dialogue, peace and solidarity.

“It’s an incredible honor,” Schorois told The Associated Press by phone from Australia on Friday. “I think the real emotion has yet to come when I’m standing there at the starting line.

“This is a great first step in the direction of what the Pope believes to achieve through sport (with) inclusivity and fraternity,” Schorois added. “Everyone in the sports field – or on the roads in this case – is equal, regardless of their background, religion or age.”

Vatican athletes recently participated as unregistered competitors in the Small Nations Games in Europe – open to countries with a population of less than a million people – and the Mediterranean Games.

The cycling worlds marks the first time an athlete from the Vatican has competed as a regular competitor, after the International Cycling Federation recognized the Holy See as its 200th member last year.

“As Pope Francis said when he met a group of riders in 2019, the beautiful thing about cycling is that when you fall behind because you fell or because you smashed your tire, your teammates slow down and help you catch up on the bike,” said Giampaolo Matti, head of the bike. Atlética Vaticana, who oversees the team. “This is something that has to go on in life in general.”

The 40-year-old Schuurhuis qualified for the team because he is married to Australia’s ambassador to the Vatican, Chiara Burrow.

He holds Dutch and Australian passports but now represents the Vatican athletically.

“I was able to ride a bike before I could walk,” Schuurhuis said of growing up in the cycling-crazy Netherlands.

Schuurhuis previously raced on the UCI Continental Circuit, a level below the Elite World Tour.

“He’s a good cyclist. That’s a high standard,” said Valerio Agnoli, Churros volunteer coach and former Grand Tour teammate Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali.

Schuurhuis, whose day job now runs a company that supplies materials for 3D printers, trains on Rome’s traffic-clogged roads. He sometimes heads to the Alban Hills, where the Pope’s traditional summer residence is located at Castel Gandolfo.

Besides a recent photo, Schuurhuis doesn’t really walk inside the Vatican.

“I think I did it once with my son,” he said. “But he’s not really allowed to go through St. Peter’s Square. So I think the police told us.”

Schuurhuis doesn’t expect to come close to a win. His main goal is to spread the message of the Pope.

Like when he took part in a church event with Indigenous Australians on Friday, or when Belgian star Wout van Aert sought him out during training the day before.

“When people see that distinctive white and yellow shirt, it sparks their curiosity,” Anoli said.

Agnoli pointed out how cycling is conducted on open roads, passing people’s homes and not just paying ticket holders inside a stadium or arena.

“That’s the great thing about cycling,” Annoli said. “I was chosen by the Vatican for this position because my role as a cyclist was that of an assistant to the team. I helped my teammates win the Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Vuelta.”

In another example of the values ​​held in cycling, Matti pointed out how Gino Bartali, the 1938 Tour de France winner who smuggled forged documents inside his bicycle tire to help save Jews during Germany’s occupation of Italy in World War II, is being considered. Currently in it. Beatification by the Vatican, the first step towards possible holiness.

Vatican officials would one day want a team to participate in the Olympics.

“Going to the Olympics requires the establishment of an Olympic Committee and its recognition by the International Olympic Committee,” Matti said. “This takes time.”

However, competing in the World Championships is a huge step towards Olympic participation.

Will Pope Schuurhuis be seen on TV?

“The time difference is a problem,” Matti said, noting that the race in Australia starts at 2:15 a.m. Vatican time and that Pope Francis will travel to the southern Italian city of Matera on Sunday. “But maybe he’ll watch a replay.”

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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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