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A challenge to celebrate being alive

Challenge completed. Miguel, Luis and Fabián, in the Sierra Nevada.
Challenge completed. Miguel, Luis and Fabián, in the Sierra Nevada. / SUR
  • Three cyclists from Malaga who have had accidents on the road cycled up the Veleta mountain to raise awareness among drivers

Something happens, an accident, and life changes from one minute to another and there is nothing anyone can do about it. That was how Miguel Solís' story began: he was on the point of losing his life, doing what he loved best. But, first, back to the beginning.

For several seasons, Miguel raced with Campos Lorca, one of the most legendary cycling teams in Malaga, and was about to become a professional. He was 22 years old and had one dream: to join Banesto, Festina or Deutsche Telekom. The life he led was more like that of a Buddhist monk than a young man in his 20s. More abstinence than a detox centre. His type of meditation consisted of eating up kilometres as if his life depended on it.

"I grew up in the Fuente Olletas district, near where you go up to the Fuente de la Reina [in the Montes de Málaga]. Our neighbour was a cyclist. When I was a child he fascinated me, with his coloured outfits, his shaven legs... and that was how it began," he said.

Miguel is 44 now. He used to be one of Malaga's most promising cyclists, but his dream of being part of a team with Pantani or Ulrich was not to happen.

"I was in the Andalusian and Spanish amateur teams and all my colleagues went on to become professionals, except me," he said, although he is not upset about it now. He was at the time, though, and started to get rid of his bikes. "I was thinking that I needed to try other things, that cycling wasn't all there was in life," he explained. But for him, time has shown that actually, it is. "Well, nearly everything," he clarified.

When he was 28 he got on a bike again and was instantly reinfected with the cycling bug. He had no problem returning to that field, and the contacts he had made earlier helped to open doors to competitions for him.

On the amateur circuit, the podium soon became his natural habitat. "I enjoyed what I did more than ever before because, for the first time, there was no pressure on me," he said. "Before, you were doing it to earn money and for the big teams to notice you. The money was good, and if you won two races a month you could earn a lot. But money, as always, destroys everything," he said, remembering that competitive atmosphere that ruined many friendships.

Despite enjoying the feeling of triumph on numerous occasions, when you ask Miguel now which stage of his life was the most important, he says it was the one he has just completed with two of his best friends, Fabián Canel and Luis Márquez.

Earlier this summer, the three of them left Malaga to cycle up the Veleta mountain in Granada, the highest climb you can do by bike on the peninsula.

"We had all suffered an accident on the road at some time. Although it's not something you focus on; you know that whenever you set off from home on a bike you are vulnerable," Miguel said.

Their feat took titanic effort: they spent 14 hours on the bikes and climbed more than 5,000 metres. "My idea was that this could be a good way to raise awareness among drivers," he explained.

The accident

Miguel remembers the date of his accident because he has seen it written down a hundred times. In the hospital and police witness report, mainly. It was 9 July when a car hit him as he was cycling to Torre del Mar. Everything else, he recalls clearly.

"It was a sunny day and thanks to the breeze it wasn't too hot. A perfect day to go out on the bike, in fact," he said. He knows the way he was going, along the road from Rincón de la Victoria to Torre del Mar, but has no memory of the accident itself.

"All I remember is that something banged against my elbow. The next thing I knew, I was in a hospital bed with three broken vertebrae," he said. A few more centimetres of bad luck and he would be in a wheelchair now. He was knocked off his bike by the impact and fell in a ditch, where he lay unconscious for a long time. It was a driver, who stopped when he noticed the bike on the ground, who raised the alarm and saved his life.

The doctors advised Miguel to forget about cycling. "I couldn't accept that," he said. "I kept thinking I had to try, at least".

While he was in hospital, he began to try to find replacement parts to repair his damaged bike. A year later, with his legs still shaking after cycling up Veleta, he has a message for drivers: "I can drive, so I understand that anyone can be distracted momentarily. But if you have an accident and just drive off, you could be responsible for someone's death. You must stop, and help them," he said.