Panama City.- With his leisurely walk and wrapped in the gray hairs of wisdom and experience, the Cuban José Manuel Peláez is the head of the Pan American Road Cycling Championship, which from April 18 to 23 arrives for the first time in a Central American nation. He is seen in the corridors of the El Panama hotel talking with federations, coaches and riders.

In this 37th edition there are several particularities and novelties, but the current head of the Pan American Cycling Confederation (COPACI) transits between the concern that everything goes well and the certainty that it will be an unforgettable and historic event. We then took the opportunity for him to answer some questions that we had in the pipeline and “Pepe”, as almost everyone affectionately calls him, accepted the challenge.

Panama hosts a cycling event of such magnitude for the first time, after having organized the Central American event until last Sunday. Impulse, chance or work?

“I must begin by recognizing the extensive effort of the Panamanian Cycling Federation and its President Vicente Carreterero, for making available to COPACI an ideal infrastructure so that the best runners from Central America first and now from all of America, meet and can unite and exchange regardless of who the winners are.

“It is not coincidence or anything festive this venue. Panama is one of the countries that advances the most in continental cycling in all categories and is a prize for them, even in their aspirations to one day organize World Cups or world championships.

“The circuits chosen for the tests are beautiful and will allow us to show the world the benefits and natural beauties of this country, something that the International Cycling Union always defends in each competition.”

But beyond the event, with the assistance of 31 nations and more than 320 cyclists, other activities will take place during these days. What comments could you make about it?

“As almost always happens in each Road Cycling Championship, we will celebrate the COPACI Congress on April 20, with current issues and a review of what has been done in 2022 and 2023, as well as our projections for 2024. and 2025.

“Likewise, the President of the UCI, David Lappartient, will accompany us, who will direct the UCI Exchange Platform on the 19th, which will cover very important topics such as International Relations, Race Safety, as well as Cycling Satellite Centers in our continent, where we already have two and before the end of 2023 we will have a third in San Juan, Argentina.

“An important moment will also be the constitution of the Iberian Cycling Union this Tuesday, April 19, to which the presidents of the Spanish and Portuguese Cycling Federations have been invited. It is a very well planned program to take advantage of every minute”.

Not only have many cyclists come to the Pan American Championship, but also quality riders such as the Colombian Miguel Ángel “Supermán López, the Trinidadian Teniel Campbell, the American Amber Neben, the Colombian Lina Hernández, among other stars. Is this participation only due to the fact that two places will be awarded towards the 2024 Paris Olympic Games?

“All these figures come and the aim is that our Championships always bring together the best riders. We know that there are some who fulfill their professional contracts and we will not be able to count on them like the Cuban Arlenis Sierra herself with the Movistar Team. By the way, I clarify that this does not jeopardize her Olympic classification, since she must be among the top 20 of her specialty in the UCI ranking and would have secured her ticket to Paris 2024.

“I like to think that we are approaching the Pan American Championship that we have always dreamed of and that our riders have won. It is also the one that will deliver two direct tickets to the Olympic Games for the first time on the elite route. And as if everything said so far were not enough, we have as President of the College of Commissioners for the first time a Latin American woman, the Brazilian Elaine Sirydakis, who was already in a world road championship and visited Cuba when we organized the Caribbean Championship in 2019 .

Some final consideration hours before the start of the tests, in his double capacity as holder of COPACI and President of the Cuban Cycling Federation.

“Cycling in America lives happy days. In Cuba we have to continue working, but we have talented young blood. This Pan American Championship is another expression of compliance with the 2025 Agenda that we presented at the last COPACI Congress in San Juan, Argentina, 2022.