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A rider from the Vatican makes history at the World Road Cycling Championship

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 Ryan Schurwis He will carry an enormous sense of duty when he races with the Vatican in Sunday’s road race at the Cycling World Championships in Wollongong, Australia – marking the first time in the city-state’s increasing 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 wonderful 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 such Pope Francis He said when he met a group of riders in 2019, the nice thing about cycling is that when you get left behind because you fell or because you smashed your tire, your teammates slow down and help you catch up on the main group,” said Athena president Vaticana. Giampaolo Matteiwho supervises 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, Kiara Borough.

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 level Valerio Agnolia volunteer coach for Schuurhuis and a former teammate of the Grand Tour winners Evan Basu And the 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 it is not really allowed to pass 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,” Agnoli 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,” said Agnoli. “I was chosen by the Vatican for this job because my role as a cyclist was that of a team assistant. I helped my teammates win the Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Vuelta.”

In another example of the values ​​found in cycling, Matty pointed out how to do it Gino BartaliThe 1938 Tour de France winner who smuggled forged documents inside his bike frame to help save Jews during Germany’s occupation of Italy in World War II, is currently being considered for beatification by the Vatican, the first step toward potential sanctification.

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 travels to the southern Italian city of Matera on Sunday. “But maybe he will watch a replay.”

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