Ana Vivas on her dream job with the Colombian Cycling Federation
Ana Vivas doesn’t have a job title. It is just too difficult to put a concise label to the vast array of different roles she carries out within the Colombian Cycling Federation.
One week she will be in her office doing administrative tasks, the next she could be sitting in the Commissaire’s car at a race calling for assistance for a rider. She can just as easily be seen counting and packing national jerseys for the team competing at the Pan-American Championships, as she can be spotted anywhere around the world grocery shopping and doing laundry for the national team at the UCI Road World Championships.
Soigneur, interpreter, Radio Tour Speaker, assistant to the President of the Commissaire’s Panel, Ana Vivas carries out many different roles throughout the year. But to the Colombian athletes the title that sums her up best is “Mom”.
“I used to joke that I would never have my own children because working for cyclists is enough for my heart and nerves. I love them so much.”
She tries to keep calm when the unexpected happens, for example when Rigoberto Urán called her from his hotel room at 6am the day of the Elite Men’s road race at the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Doha. He had a high fever, and Ana was quick to contact two doctors, both of whom confirmed that he should not get on his bike.
“I tried not to show how sad and worried I was because you have to keep things rolling. He stayed in bed and watched the race on TV.”
The same day Ana was in the convoy when the radio announced several riders had crashed, among them Fernando Gaviria.
“When the car reached him, I saw him leaning on the railing grabbing his arm. That is the kind of moment that you immediately know what has happened but you don’t want to believe it…”
Despite the disappointments, the nerves and the emotions running high, September is Ana’s favourite month of the year. It is the month where she packs her bags and travels with the national team – usually around 24 riders and eight staff – to the UCI Road World Championships.
“I’ve always been a passionate cycling fan and my job is like a dream come true. When I was a child, going to watch the Vuelta a Colombia was a family ritual. But I never imagined I would become so involved in Colombian cycling.”
She initially worked at the Federation in a communications role, and quickly found herself in a ‘pinch- me-to-make-sure-I-am-not-dreaming’ situation at the UCI Road World Championships in Florence, Italy, in 2013.
“I found myself at the dinner table with Nairo Quintana, Carlos Betancur, Rigoberto Urán and Sergio Henao, among others. I couldn’t believe this was my job!”
Ana certainly made an impact on her first Road Worlds. Eight days before the start of competition, they were all staying in Cecina, 80km from Florence. One day, the riders proposed cycling into town for a post-lunch gelato.
“It was a dream for me to be riding a bike with the national team… and then I crashed! It was my first big event and I found myself in a hospital emergency room crying and praying that my foot was not broken.”
Fortunately it wasn’t, but damaged tendons meant she spent the next week hopping around on one leg.
Although her first two UCI Road World Championships were more “relaxed” as press manager for the Colombian team, the evolution of her job means that now her days are much longer. She starts by setting out breakfast according to the riders’ different dietary requirements then, depending on the race schedule, she organises a pasta meal for later in the day with the hotel chef. After breakfast, she is at the races as Radio Tour interpreter for the team staff, before going back to the hotel to pick up the laundry bags and do the shopping for the next day. If someone is sick, she takes them to the doctor, she also accompanies the younger riders to the UCI Junior Conference and the Federation representatives to the UCI Congress.
“It can be stressful but it is a positive stress. It’s exhausting, but I love it. I am working for athletes I admire. It’s an honour for me. Seeing how our riders perform around the world is my main motivation. I’m convinced it’s my duty to be at their level.”
Sport Director training at the UCI World Cycling Centre
That conviction saw her apply for, and obtain, a scholarship to travel to the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland, in November 2016 to complete the UCI Sport Director training programme.
“It was a perfect opportunity to improve my skills, learning straight from the source. One of the things I love most about my job is having such diverse responsibilities which make me capable of understanding how things work from different standpoints: for a Federation, a race organiser, a team staff member and as a Sport Director. The course made me aware of what we were doing wrong, how far we can go, what we can improve, and how. It has given me more confidence in how I do my job.”
The young woman is aware that she is working for a sport that is gripping the imaginations of an ever-increasing number of Colombian fans: “I had a beautiful experience recently in the waiting room of a medical centre. The Tour de France was on, and everyone stopped their activities to watch the last kilometres. It was as if time was standing still: doctors, nurses and patients were all in front of the TV watching Rigoberto Urán.”
An important event for Colombians is the Vuelta a Colombia (August 1 to 13 in 2017), for which Ana works with the organisation on sponsor proposals. During the event, she acts as assistant for the Commissaire’s Panel President and as Radio Tour speaker.
The National Championships represent another important part of Ana’s job: “This is a big event because we do our best to have all our UCI WorldTeam and UCI Pro Continental team riders participating. It’s the only opportunity of the year for Colombians to see their big idols riding in our country. We make the Nationals a very big event.”
She continues: “We’re living in a new era of cycling fever in Colombia and it’s so exciting. Lots of people are riding their bikes at the weekend or using their bikes to get to work. I’ve only been part of this world for the last five years, but during that time I’ve seen more Colombian flags flying around the world than ever before.”