The 17-year-old Puerto Rican rider may be young, but his goals are crystal clear
Jarier Laureano is focused and self-assured, especially for a 17-year-old. After winning Puerto Rican national championships in road and mountain biking in the 13/14-year-old categories, he set his sights on riding for the Bear National Team, based out of California. The team is renowned for developing young mountain biking talent, boasting multiple state and national champions.
“I wanted to be in a big team,” Laureano says. “They look very united, and I wanted to be part of something like that. And I said to my father, ‘I want to be in that team. And one day I will use that uniform.’ And I started training and training, every time more.”
Laureano was accepted into the program in 2020, and though the pandemic has curtailed his racing season, his resolve hasn’t wavered. He is currently living with his aunt and uncle in Anderson, South Carolina, training hard to race again while taking high school courses remotely.
Laureano may be one of the youngest Trek-sponsored athletes, but few are more determined. Read our Q&A below to learn about his passions for mountain biking and home remodeling, and how he hopes to change the face of Puerto Rican cycling development.
How did you start riding bicycles?
Laureano: I didn’t know about cycling, mountain biking and all the stuff. I wanted to do motocross. But my father didn’t have the money and my mother didn’t want me to race in motocross because of the danger. And my father said, “Okay, let’s do mountain biking. Let’s try this.” And I loved it so much that I kept doing it. It was going to be a recreational thing with my father, but I took it to the next level.
Did your father race mountain bikes, too?
Laureano: No, my father doesn’t race, he just does it for fun with friends and with me sometimes. In my active recovery training, I do it with him and go ride with him. And that’s how I got to know mountain biking.
When I started my first year, I was 13 or 14, and I did pretty good. We had a lot of mechanical issues, but we did good. And in my second year I was the national champion of Puerto Rico among 13- or 14-year-olds. Then last year, I started doing road racing too, and I got a national championship of road biking. And I got to represent Puerto Rico in the Caribbean championships.
I just love the extreme, the suffering part. I just enjoy being in nature, doing jumps and being outdoors.
When you were 12, what made you realize you wanted to race? What got you into competing as opposed to just doing it as recreation?
Laureano: I don’t know. I just love the extreme, the suffering part. I just enjoy being in nature, doing jumps and being outdoors. And the cool and technical stuff. I love to ride on technical trails.
What riders do you look up to? Are there riders that you want to emulate?
Laureano: Mathieu van der Poel, that’s my favorite rider because I feel like I am like him in some part. I compare myself to him because I race in road bike, I do mountain bike, and though I haven’t raced with a lot of kids from a lot of other places, in Puerto Rico I am the national champion in mountain bike. I am one of the best juniors.
I know you went through an application process to get into Bear Devo. Can you tell me about that? How long did it take, and what made you learn about Bear Devo?
Laureano: The first time I saw them was when I was 13 or 14 years old, and I learned what a UCI race is. I saw a kid the next year, he started riding with Bear, and that was the first time that I saw them. And I see that they ride for Trek. That was the first thing that made me search more about the team. And then I started looking more about the team and seeing all the riders that are in the team, like Riley [Amos] and all those kids. They’re really good and pretty cool. They’re good kids.
I wanted to be in a big team. They look very united, and I wanted to be part of something like that. And I said to my father, “I want to be in that team. And one day I will use that uniform.” And I started training and training, every time more. And this year in March when I saw them in Puerto Rico for the Mountain Bike Cup race that was in Puerto Rico, I said, “I will be in that team for next year. I will do anything that I can to be in that team.”
When I was training in quarantine, I was searching, “How can I get to that team?” I didn’t know about the application process. And I start searching. And I found [Bear co-founder] Julia [Violich]’s email. I told her that I wanted to be in the team, what can I do? And she told me about the application process.
I told [Bear] that I wanted to bring a little bit of the Caribbean flavor. A little bit of the Caribbean people.
What do you think you bring to the team?
Laureano: Positivity. Also, they all are from here, they are Americans from the United States. I told them that I wanted to bring a little bit of the Caribbean flavor. A little bit of the Caribbean people.
What do you like to do outside of riding a bike?
Laureano: I like to design houses. I like to do motocross. I do it for fun. I also do go-karts and paintball — just have fun with my friends and family.
Wait, you said you like to design houses?
Laureano: Yeah, like every time I enter into a house or a store, I imagine how I would do more to it. Like I do remodeling in my mind, and I enter somewhere, and I start in my mind just imagining, “I would put this here because of this. I would change this, and put some lights here.”
Obviously you’re young, but let’s say after cycling, is that something you’d like to do for a living?
Laureano: Yeah, that’s also why I entered into the Bear Development team, because I wanted colleges to see me and to get a scholarship to study architecture or engineering.
And how are you keeping up with your studies right now?
Laureano: I’m here in South Carolina, but I’m still studying in the school where I was in Puerto Rico. Online studying, because in Puerto Rico, they haven’t started in-person. They’re still online.
How hard has that been? Have you been able to balance your time well between doing school and training, or has it been difficult?
Laureano: It has been good. My trainer sends me the week’s training. And I work the hours that I need to be in school and then go to training. Or I do it before school. I like to be prepared and do things with time.
Who’s been supporting you throughout this? Who’s been most supportive of you, and who’s your motivation?
Laureano: My dad actually. He calls me every day. And my uncle, too. They are like, every day calling and checking that everything’s OK. They have been really there for me. They always motivate me. They find a way for me to be motivated all the time.
The thing that I most wanted from this, from achieving one of my goals of being in Bear, is to motivate all those kids from Puerto Rico so they follow what they want, their dreams and their goals. Because if I did it, and I achieved mine, they could do it too.
What sort of things have they done to keep you motivated?
Laureano: They told me all the good stuff that has happened with Bear, that I have a really great opportunity. And also about all the things that I have achieved in a few years. I have been riding since five years ago, maybe six, and they have reminded me of all the good stuff that I have done. And they see that I have potential to do more. Like, ‘You said that you will be in Bear. Now you are. Now you have this opportunity from Trek. A lot of good things have happened. Give everything that you have. Be ready to train.’
What has it been like being in Bear so far?
Laureano: I haven’t seen [my teammates], but they have written me on Instagram and followed me, and I have talked with some of them. And it has been really good. I’ve raced with them in Puerto Rico. I talked with them there. Like, even Riley, he didn’t know who I am and he came to me to say hi and talk with me. And Julia and all of them, they didn’t know who I was and they came to talk with me. And it was really good that feeling, and it has been great being in Bear.
When’s your first race going to be? What are you looking forward to right now?
Laureano: My first race will be on Feb. 7 in Puerto Rico, the national championship. And then there’s a Junior Series race in Rincon. Then I will race also in Puerto Rico, another Junior Series race in March.
What are you hoping to accomplish now that you’ve achieved a major goal of being in Bear? What’s next?
Laureano: The thing that I most wanted from this, from achieving one of my goals of being in Bear, is to motivate all those kids from Puerto Rico so they follow what they want, their dreams and their goals. Because if I did it, and I achieved mine, they could do it too.
Can you tell me why that’s important to you?
Laureano: Because in Puerto Rico, it’s not bad, but we don’t have too much help from sponsors and all those things, and a lot of riders, they quit the sport. It’s really hard for us to get into Bear. Obviously there are a lot of riders here in the United States, and we don’t have that kind of thing in Puerto Rico like Bear, a team for development like that.
A lot of kids were quitting on the sport. A lot of kids don’t have the help they need to have a bike, or have a helmet and all that stuff. And I wanted people to see that if I can go to the United States and do this, and achieve being in Bear, they can do it too.