Bahamian cyclist Felix Neely is getting ready to leave for Medellín, Colombia for three months, set to receive intense training in preparation for what he hopes will be a professional career.
The 15-year-old Bahamian cyclist said he was very excited to be given this opportunity. He said cycling is his dream. He is set to leave New Providence on January 3, 2019 and return on March 24.
“When I first heard that I was going to Colombia, I was very excited. I told everyone about it. Every time I rode I went hard,” Neely said.
The 10th grade student of C.R. Walker Senior High School said he hopes to come back as a stronger cyclist and hopes to be able to speak Spanish fluently.
Neely got involved in cycling at the early age of five. His uncles Roy Colebrook and Baron ‘Turbo’ Musgrove introduced him to the sport. He wants to be the first Bahamian to get a gold medal in cycling at the Commonwealth Games. He also wants to take part in one of the biggest cycling events in the world, the Tour de France.
Maria Campbell, of Cycles Unlimited, also a member of Enjoy Cycling Club, played a huge role in providing Neely with this opportunity. She met a Colombian project manager, Juan Pulido, a cycling aficionado who came to work on the Cotton Bay Project in Eleuthera, and the connection was established. Pulido organized a few races that included international cyclists.
Pulido’s nephew Pablo Pulido is the coach of the Colombian junior national team. Enjoy Cycling Club decided to ask Pablo Pulido through Juan Pulido to see if the club can send one of its junior cyclists to be a part of the Colombian national junior program.
After getting the green light, they chose Neely, who Campbell said is well loved by everyone.
“My idea was to send Neely in the summer when he was on school vacation. However, in Colombia, their summer starts from Christmas and ends in March. Their cycling season starts in March. Pablo (Pulido) told me that January will be better because that is when training starts. I was in a dilemma,” said Campbell.
Campbell said she contacted the counsellor of Neely’s school and explained that he has a great opportunity with the training in Colombia. The school counsellor Monique Cooper said that she will ensure that he gets up to speed once he gets back.
John Cox, president of the Enjoy Cycling Club, said this is huge for The Bahamas.
“The opportunity for Neely to go is huge. To be able to have that cycling immersion, I think that expectation of him becoming a better cyclist and a more evolved human being from being in a different culture is fantastic. I see it from a sporting and physical development perspective but also a cultural one for him. It is amazing for him to have that experience and for Enjoy Club to help facilitate that opportunity and for him to be the first person to do that, I think it is amazing,” Cox said.
He hopes it is the first of many opportunities for young Bahamians who are cyclists to go into a different environment for their overall development.
Campbell said Neely will be living with one of the cyclists’ family while in Medellín.
“Pablo Pulido gave us the invitation for Neely to come and also the cost. Neely will be living with another cyclist’s family. He has been communicating in Spanish because they do not speak any English – it is another advantage we see for him,” Campbell said.
Cox is very passionate about cycling in The Bahamas. He sees cycling as an untapped treasure and said that Neely is not the only one out there. He said there are other kids who are strong like Neely. Cox is advocating for cycling to be in schools and for there to be a velodrome in The Bahamas.
“I think that cycling is an untapped treasure. We see the benefits of how our track and field athletes perform and I feel the next step as far as a different sport is if we had a velodrome in The Bahamas. I think we would have seen serious results because our kids have a natural tendency to be strong. We see it in other kids and not just Neely, who have been so strong but did not get the opportunity to take it to the next level. From the governmental perspective, I think if there is an investment in a velodrome track, there could be a league of cycling that takes place that can take place in the primary and secondary schools. From there we can see a huge benefit and that is controllable – it is about a compound and the bikes are not expensive. It is easy to watch and there is a ton of disciplines that happens within the velodrome. Then you can have people travel here to compete,” Cox said.
When asked if the training will be rough, Neely said he likes pain.
“I am a guy that likes pain. My older brother always told me that hard work pays off. I always go hard no matter what,” he said.
Apart from cycling, Neely is also a track athlete. He runs the 1500 and 3000 meters (m) races.
As for his potential, Campbell said: “Neely has so much heart. It is unbelievable, he does not give up and he is strong. That is why we chose him as someone we would like to begin this exchange. We are looking for people and we want to see the commitment.”
She added that the Bahamas Cycling Federation (BCF) wants to send persons there as coaches to get some training as well.
Neely is already on a program that includes no sweets, no cycling until he gets to Medellín, no gym and no hard workouts. He said he wants to thank Campbell and Cycles Unlimited, Enjoy Cycling Club, the persons who went out to his socials to support him and the BCF.
Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism