Agua Prieta Dentist Displays Fortitude on the Bike

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Ortiz: “I always push myself” Photo courtesy Cristobal Ortiz

Ortiz: “I always push myself” Photo courtesy Cristobal Ortiz

By Michael Murphy

Cristobal Ortiz was the “lantern rouge” – a rider who finishes dead last – in the 95-mile Cochise Classic in 2013. Peddling a bulky 29-inch mountain bike, Cristobal wasn’t just the slowest rider, he was a true survivor. “I came in last place after more than 12 hours with a busted shoulder and knee,” he recalled. “It was absolutely crazy, but it connected me to a part of myself I didn’t know I had. I was challenged and encountered demons not only physically but psychologically. Overcoming those cha

Cristobal Ortiz was the “lantern rouge” – a rider who finishes dead last – in the 95-mile Cochise Classic in 2013.

Peddling a bulky 29-inch mountain bike, Cristobal wasn’t just the slowest rider, he was a true survivor.

“I came in last place after more than 12 hours with a busted shoulder and knee,” he recalled. “It was absolutely crazy, but it connected me to a part of myself I didn’t know I had. I was challenged and encountered demons not only physically but psychologically. Overcoming those challenges made me realize I was my worst and only enemy.”

For his fortitude, Cristobal was awarded the “Cyclist of the Ride” honor by Perimeter Bicycling. The award goes to the person who best shows the spirit of the event. His longest prior ride was 49 miles.

Cristobal finished in 12:42:25 and was followed in by Curtis Foster, long-time event official.

He was completely spent,” said Barbara Franklin, an official with Perimeter Bicycling. “He took that experience as a challenge and in 2015 finished in 5:11:56. He has expanded his vision beyond himself – I am in awe of him. 

An Agua Prieta dentist, Ortiz embodies the “never say die” spirit of the Vecinos Cycling Team whose members are affiliated with the Rancho Feliz community in the Mexican community across the border from Douglas. Vecinos (“neighbors”) not only pay for their own Cochise Classic registrations, but also help others who may not be able to ride with scholarships. Money left over goes to Rancho Feliz.

Ortiz, 33, has made cycling his passion. After his more than 12-hour finish in 2013, he returned to the Cochise Classic in 2014 as part of the Rancho Feliz program. His fitness and results were dramatically improved: he completed the 95 miles in five hours and 11 minutes.

He will return with about 10 other Vecinos Cycling Team members to this year’s Cochise Classic, which will be held Oct. 10. They’ll be riding to help Rancho Feliz, which brings together volunteers from the U.S. to assist people living in Agua Prieta, best known as a town hard hit by drug violence. Programs emphasize education and opportunity, not welfare or handouts.

“I try to convince others to ride and to study because I am very grateful for my school experience,” Ortiz said. “Every day I see youngsters making poor choices, like dropping out of school, joining organized crime. They are lured in with false hope and promises of money and fame. This is a way to prevent that.”

His friends call Ortiz “salmon” because he likes to swim against the current. That may explain his persistence in the 2013 ride when he pushed himself to the verge of collapse.

“I like to think outside of the box. Being told I can’t do it means I will do it,” he said. “Always push yourself further than you think you can, never doubt your capacity.”

Ortiz originally comes from Juarez, Chihuahua (or “warez” as they call it), a city with violent history.

He says he has found peace in Agua Prieta, despite the town’s tough reputation. “There’s more good people than bad people here, people that are willing to do good,” he said.

He will return to this year’s Cochise Classic with a simple mission: “My goal is the same – as I wake up every morning, to be better than I was yesterday. I am my only competition. I don’t compete against other riders; I compete against myself.”


Andy Clarke named Cochise Dedication Recipient

Perimeter Bicycle Association of America, Inc., is proud to announce Andy Clarke is the Dedication Recipient for the 2015 Cochise Classic held in Douglas, Ariz.

He is a longtime supporter of Perimeter. Clarke is the first person to be named a dedication recipient for Viva Bike Vegas (2014), El Tour de Tucson (2012) and El Tour de Phoenix (2008).

“Andy has supported Perimeter, El Tour and Tucson/Pima County for more than 15 years,” said Richard DeBernardis, president and founder of Perimeter Bicycling. “Our best wishes to Andy in his new adventures and we will support him wherever he goes.”

Clarke is a longtime bike advocate who recently left the League of American Bicyclists after 12 years as the organization’s president.

Clarke joined the League in 2003 as director of State and Local Advocacy and months later became the organization’s president. In the last dozen years, Clarke helped supervise a group that saw National Bike Summit participation rise from 200 to 650, the League is now certifying 400 instructors annually after having just 1,000 in 2003 and the League went from 425 affiliated local bicycle clubs and advocacy groups to nearly 1,000 nationally.

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