Best Buddies Racing, a New Pro Team, Is Riding For Those With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

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Jessica Coulon
·3 min read
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Photo credit: Anthony Tom/Best Buddies International
Photo credit: Anthony Tom/Best Buddies International

There’s a new pro cycling team in the U.S., and they aren’t just racing to win.

Best Buddies Racing is a domestic elite cycling team founded this year with the goal of supporting the nonprofit, Best Buddies. The team will be racing to raise awareness for the nonprofit and its mission, plus all of their prize money will be donated.

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Best Buddies is an international nonprofit dedicated to enriching the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). It was founded in 1989 by Anthony Shriver—nephew of John F. Kennedy and son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics. Today, the organization has 3,200 chapters around the world with programs offering resources like job placement, inclusive living, and one-to-one friendships.

Shriver is an avid cyclist himself, and Best Buddies has hosted countless cycling events, along with various other activity-based fundraisers. Any organization could host a gala, Shriver noted, but a bike ride is one of the best ways to raise awareness and money for the nonprofit while bringing together donors, volunteers, and “buddies”—those with IDD who participate in the nonprofit’s programs.

“Camaraderie on the bike is second to none,” Shriver told Bicycling. “It really brings people together.”

To Shriver, creating a pro cycling team is a natural progression of what Best Buddies has already been doing. “We do a bunch of different things to bring in new energy and blood,” Shriver said, and the pro cycling team is the latest example of that. (He also mentioned that Best Buddies is looking to host a destination gravel event in Alaska in 2022.)

Photo credit: Anthony Tom/Best Buddies International
Photo credit: Anthony Tom/Best Buddies International

Best Buddies Racing boasts a serious team roster, too.

  • Travis McCabe, who recently retired from racing at the WorldTour level with Israel Start-Up Nation

  • Eric Marcotte, the 2014 national road race champion

  • Ben Wolfe, a national team time trial champion

  • Michael Hernandez, the 2019 U23 national criterium champion and team captain

  • Ulisses Abbud, the national manager of cycling development for Best Buddies

  • Ruben Companioni, a PanAmerican gold medalist

  • Luis Zayas, the 2020 Florida state road champion

  • Gunter Hermanni, a longtime South Florida racer who helped develop Andrew Talansky and Hernandez

  • Patrick Sansbury, a three-time Florida state champion

The team will focus mostly on road racing, especially criteriums, though some members have already competed in other disciplines, like gravel. In fact, one of their big racing goals is to do well in the USA Crits Series, or even win it overall; the series season starts June 11 and ends September 24.

Photo credit: Anthony Tom/Best Buddies International
Photo credit: Anthony Tom/Best Buddies International

The cyclists have already started competing this year under the team name—some as early as January—and with great results, including two stage wins and the overall win at the Clásica Panama RPC Radio and road race and crit wins at the Swamp Classic.

But winning races is only one goal of the team. They’re also out racing around the country and beyond to raise awareness for people with IDD and to further realize one of the nonprofit’s main tenets, “inclusion lives here.” Every cyclist has paired up with a buddy to foster a friendship, and buddies are invited to come to every race.

“Our goal is to have a buddy to participate in every race—giving out food, meeting racers, feeling included,” Shriver said. “It’s really about bringing people with special abilities into the fold.”

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