"I am proud to be Peruvian, and I just ride."
When he crossed the finish line in first position at June’s UCI Para-Cycling Road World Cup in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland , Israel Hilario was immediately congratulated by his wife Sandra.
She accompanied him as he took photos; provided him with clean, dry clothes; and acted as translator for officials.
There was no team tent to welcome Israel Hilario, nor a debriefing with the national coach. He waited in the rain on a public bench to find out if he would be called for an anti-doping test
Hilario is his country’s only representative on the international para-cycling circuit, and Sandra Hilario is his massage therapist, cook, travel agent and soigneur. She just draws the line at the title of “mechanic.”
Hilario currently wears the leader’s jersey of the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup after victories in the C2 road races of the opening two rounds in Maniago, Italy, and Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland. He also finished sixth and third in the two time trials, despite the fact that he has never owned a time trial bike.
A para-cyclist since 2010, Israel Hilario is making enormous progress. He likes to think that his good results since 2012 are bearing fruit in his country, as the Peruvian Government is now starting to invest money in Paralympic competitors.
“We have the capacity to compete at international level but we need to change mentalities,” Hilario said. “Peruvian society is not as advanced as many when it comes to people with (disabilities). A person with a (disability) does not have a future. If you cannot work, that is your problem, whereas in Europe or the United States, people with a disability get paid.”
After completing some of his races, he sends a small article and photo to the local newspaper in a bid to give the sport more exposure and change attitudes in his country.
“People can read in the newspaper that someone with a disability has won an international race, and this is particularly important to motivate young people,” Hilario said.
He added that the mentalities of athletes from some of para-cycling’s leading nations are also changing.
"Other countries are starting to realise that people from poor countries can perform,” Hilario said. “They cannot underestimate our abilities, even if we do not have the same resources.
“But at the end of the day, I am not out to prove anything. I am proud to be Peruvian, and I just ride. I train and train every day with conventional cyclists and that helps me progress.”
Never has Hilario been so competitive on the international scene. With the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships (28 July – 2 August) looming in Nottwil, Switzerland, and Rio 2016 just around the corner, he will not be drawn into public declarations about his objectives.
“Who knows what will happen? I want to be well and I want to have good bikes. For the rest, we will see.”
Following the Road World Championships, Hilaro also plans to race in the upcoming Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.