THIS RIDER: Dante Young
Find out how Dante Young’s upbringing shaped him into the successful man he is today in this episode of THIS RIDER.
Dante Young is a 27 year old rider with wisdom well beyond his years. It’s this wisdom that first piqued our interest in him as a person, as an athlete. And it’s the collective wisdom, enthusiasm and determination that ultimately led to us partnering with his team, the Miami Blazers, in 2022.
We knew early on that we had to share Dante’s story with the world. His values, mission and success are nothing short of exceptional.
The latest THIS RIDER episode featuring the Los Angeles native reveals a tale of hardship, persistence and discipline not very often seen among his peers let alone professional sportspeople.
Growing up as Dante Young
Dante grew up with his sister, India, in a deprived neighbourhood in Los Angeles, California. His father wasn’t in the picture and his mother spent much of his younger, formative years elsewhere. This left Dante’s grandparents to raise him and his sister.
“A lot of kids in South-Central…it’s not set up for us to thrive or see ourselves getting somewhere being a professional athlete or as the CEO of a company or working for a big business when the people and everything around you say otherwise,” says Dante, reflecting on the hostile streets from where he was raised. “You just put yourself in this mental bubble that says, ‘this is just what life is.’”
“Most people where we’re from don’t make it out of that [environment]. There’s so much you have to provide for yourself because you’re the only one that’s able to look out for yourself,” says Justin Williams, the manager of L39ION of LA racing team. “And that’s why you see a lot of kids turn to drugs or gang banging because they have an automatic family. That’s a part of gang life that people never explain or understand. Some of these kids have no one but these gangs bring them in and treat them like family.”
Avoiding gang life when it’s so normalised among your peers is rough. You have to go against the grain, rise above it, and walk away from everything you know, trusting that it’s the right decision.
Dante knew he had to find something to channel his energy into.
The turning point
Dat Nguyen owned a local bike shop called Fix Fixie in Mission Hills, LA. “He was a father figure, he was a best friend, a coach, a mentor,” remembers Dante. “I would ride there every day to hang out with Jericho and Dat.”
Jericho Vivar Culata had a major positive influence on Dante's love of bikes and cycling. Both in their late teens, they fed off each other's infectious enthusiasm.
“There’s a ride that we’d go to called Critical Mass but my sister didn’t want me to go to this [particular] ride,” remembers Dante, explaining how his sister just had a gut feeling that he shouldn’t go. His sister’s disapproval of his attendance was initially met with upset but he reluctantly agreed not to attend.
When he woke up the next day, it was bad news. Jericho’s name was all over the media. Jericho had hit his head and crashed during the Critical Mass. He was 18 years old.
“Jericho was just a teenager who loved life, loved cycling and welcomed everyone with open arms. He just wanted to spread his love through others. He was someone you could talk to and you immediately felt like you knew him,” says Dante, who at that time in his life hadn’t come across anyone like that. “He passed that on to me, so whenever I’m out and about and meet people who are stoked on bikes and life, I try to share the same thing and develop a positive reinforced relationship to show that the sport is welcoming.”
In the weeks that followed, Dante decided to ride in Jericho’s honour.
Once Jericho passed away, it definitely motivated him more to honour Jericho and really push himself to the next level,” says Blazers teammate Angel Muñoz.
From then on, Dante was a regular at fixed gear crits. Not only was he participating, but he was also winning. He quickly got a name for himself on the scene thanks to his explosive power.
“What motivated Dante even more was seeing another black person racing at the highest level,” says Angel referring to the inspiration Dante got from watching Cory and Justin’s YouTube videos. “When we first met Justin on the local group ride, that’s when we thought we should save up for road bikes and try road racing.”
This sparked the birth of Miami Blazers. They’re a diverse group of riders: from LA and around the US, and also the Caribbean, Venezuela and other South American countries. The barriers to professional cycling are complex for riders from these countries: something you can read more about in our interview with Paraguayan CANYON//SRAM cyclist Agua Marina Espinola.
The Blazers are part of the Williams Racing League, led by influential African-American pro riders Cory and Justin Williams. Along with the Williams’ team, L39ION of LA, the Blazers were set up to tackle the inequality and lack of diversity in professional cycling.
Changing the world one black rider at a time
Cycling is traditionally a white man’s world. In 2021, less than 1% of riders in the WorldTour (the highest level of men’s professional cycling) were black. The 2022 Tour de France featured no black riders at all. The reasons for this are widely discussed, and action is needed to remedy it.
Dante believes change is on the horizon.
“In the US, there has been a growing shift in diversity within the cycling culture, and people are catching on.” he says. “In reality, we need people to notice us and welcome us with an open mind. Cycling is very traditional and when things change, it’s perceived to be negative. People don’t like change but change can be for the better.”
Teammate Angel Munoz agrees. “Now we’re seeing more colour-diverse individuals entering the sport and winning these races. It definitely motivates both of us to just keep doing what we’re doing because it motivates the younger generation. They look up to me and Dante. They can relate because we came from that.”
For many kids growing up in disadvantaged areas, the bike can be a tool to inspire them to break the cycle. Justin Williams explains, “the bike gives you perspective, it shows you the world from a place you never knew existed. The bike allows you to travel through these different neighbourhoods with these big houses and super nice cars and you’re seeing people living a life you’ve never seen before.”
It’s Dante’s love of cycling that enabled him to build a very different life. But Dante, Justin and Angel are very clear that this isn’t a selfish pursuit. The reason they’re riding and racing is to make it easier for kids of similar background as them to get on a bike and chase their dreams, even if it seems unattainable at first.
“We’re building teams, building camps and teaching them the fundamentals of cycling” explains Dante. “We do these really cool junior day camps wherever we’re racing. We hang out with the kids, we teach them some things, instil knowledge and just be with them.”
Dante is a constant source of motivation. He’s inherently a good person striving to grow at every opportunity. To all around him, he’s a champion who succeeds. When times are tough, he develops and evolves who he is as a person, on and off the bike.
We’re all born with a God-given gift and how we go about life determines how that can evolveDante Young
The champion’s champion
We know Dante inspires hundreds if not thousands of people around him. This film alone will no doubt increase that number. But who inspires him?
“Oh, that’s a hard one!” he laughs. He considers his reply before answering.
“I look up to people who have always been successful but who have evolved into champions in their own right. LeBron James is an example. He’s always been a successful athlete but he’s always evolved to be an activist and outspoken and a businessman. He’s knowledgeable and has instilled knowledge into the people around him. He’s willing to carry his team on and off the basketball court and be a leader in order to be successful. That’s a champion’s mindset.”
“We’re all born with a God-given gift and how we go about life determines how that can evolve. How you evolve, how you grow as a person and how you impact people more than just through your craft.”
Get out and cheer for Miami Blazers
Miami Blazers will be taking on the full US criterium calendar in 2023. They also have some exciting but yet unconfirmed events in the calendar. Keep your eyes peeled on Dante’s personal Instagram channel, or the Miami Blazers Instagram channel for all the details in due course.
Most importantly, get out there and be more Dante.
Dante is a constant source of motivation. He’s inherently a good person striving to grow at every opportunity.
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