Juanjo Méndez and Clàudia Grau from the Genesis Cycling Team – courage and tenacity.

We are pleased to introduce you to a pair of athletes that you will be grateful to have met: Juanjo Méndez, an international Paralympic cycling legend, and the promising young rider Clàudia Grau. They are both members of the Genesis Cycling Team “inclusive cycling” club.

Juanjo Méndez won three medals at the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, and achieved a commendable fifth place at London 2012 and came ninth in Beijing.

Juanjo Méndez and Clàudia Grau of the Genesis Cycling Team take a break from their daily training routine at the Horta Velodrome to talk to us. The Horta Velodrome – which is also named after the legendary cyclist Miquel Poblet – is also the current headquarters of the Catalan Cycling Federation, and was inaugurated to celebrate the Track Cycling World Championship in 1984.

The Horta Velodrome was the venue for the track cycling events at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. And on 27 July 1992, it was the place where Spain won its first gold medal at those memorable Olympic Games, thanks to José Manuel Moreno’s incredible track cycling triumph in the one kilometre time trial event. Inverse had the opportunity to manufacture the jerseys worn by the winners at those fondly remembered Barcelona ’92 Olympic Games.

Some days later, on 20 August in that same summer, Juanjo Méndez experienced a turning point in his life.  It changed drastically after he lost an arm and a leg in a dramatic motorcycle accident which almost cost killed him. During his long and arduous recovery process, Juanjo put on a lot of weight and could barely move. While he was in hospital, he had plenty of time to watch the Paralympic Games and saw that there were other athletes who had overcome difficult situations similar to his own. The infectious encouragement from his friend and coach Bernat Moreno gave him the strength and courage to turn his life around and make a triumphant return to sport.

And that’s how Juanjo Méndez became a triple medallist at the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 and achieved a commendable fifth place position in London 2012 and came ninth in Beijing. But Juanjo achieved something else: he became an icon of the Paralympic movement, and the image of his struggle and effort to overcome the laws of physics and the imbalance provided by an incomplete body has stayed with us ever since.

But the triumphs of Juanjo Méndez do not end there. Together with his friend and coach, Bernat Moreno, he founded the Genesis Cycling Team club in 2002. A club that really is more than a club. It is an “inclusive club” that has helped many people (especially boys and girls with physical and mental disabilities) to come out of their mental black holes and give them this self-confidence to fight for their dreams so that they are able to say “I can do it.” After twenty years, what is now a long-established club has been the home of a large cycling school, two leading competition teams in paracycling and track cycling and since 2021, there has even been a junior team.

The club’s determination and tenacity were portrayed in the extraordinary documentary “Imparables” [Unstoppables] which was made in 2012. “Imparables” documents the training and participation of Juanjo Méndez and Raquel Acinas in the London 2012 Paralympics, and follows the other members of the club, which has always called itself “Los Piratas”.

Clàudia Grau is one of those young women whose lives were changed by Juanjo Méndez and the Genesis Cycling Team. Clàudia tragically had to have a leg amputated and was forced to deal with a new and painful situation. However, her ex-boyfriend had seen the documentary “Imparables”, so she went to the Horta Velodrome to meet Juanjo and the club that gave her a warm welcome from day one.  Clàudia Grau is today a member of the Catalan Paracycling Team, and she says that Juanjo and Bernat are her fathers when she is not at home.

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