By Michael E. Miller
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"This is the nicest, safest place to ride a bike in Dade County," he declares. "We all get along nice. We have a hell of a ride, and the coaching's totally free. We have a lot of experienced riders out here. We got law enforcement officers, we got lawyers, we got superrich people, poor people like me. We got people from all over the world: Nicaragua, Haiti, gringos, all Central America."
On Saturdays many of the riders meet to race in the Redland. Each week Corrales presents the winner of that competition with the "cojones plásticos," a set of pink plastic testicles on a key chain, which the winner hangs from his bike until his possession is successfully challenged.
Corrales races sometimes, but less now than in the past. In 2003 he was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors found tumors in his stomach and intestines, so he began a regimen of medication and radiation treatment. Three years ago he became very sick. He was forced to close his shop, Kendall Bicycles and Fitness, and doctors estimated he had only months to live.
"They gave me six months," he says cheerfully. "I'm still alive. Why? Because of the sport, because of my love for this sport. Because of my love for these people."
Corrales recovered and has eschewed further radiation treatment and prescription meds. He takes what he calls "natural medicines," and every day he rides his bike around the course. "This is my land," he declares, sweeping his hand across the panorama of manufactured ponds and grassy knolls.
His white Ford pickup is a virtual mobile bike shop. He has a bicycle stand in back and, beside it, a wheel-truing apparatus. The bed is filled with spare parts, tools, extra wheels, and random frames. He does minor repairs for free. Every day he fills two coolers with ice and drinks — soda, water, sometimes beer. Bikers help themselves, leaving dollar bills under his toolbox to pay him back. "You don't got a dollar, no problem," Corrales says.
"Miguel, he knows everybody. He cares about everyone. He's an excellent person," Salazar says of Corrales. With his elbow broken, Salazar, a barber, hasn't been able to work since the accident. "I don't have no health insurance, no nothing," he says, shaking his head. "When I cut hair, I keep half.... It's hard. Right now I'm not making any money.... Miguel and the bicyclists raised a little money for [my] rent."
The day after the crash, Corrales started a collection to help Salazar and a few other riders who had been most injured and were in a tight spot. He raised about $1000 a head. "I don't have family here; I don't have anybody," Salazar says. "I come to watch, to talk. This is like my family." Indeed, as he speaks, a biker, seeing him, turns off the road and pulls up, hand already stretched out. Salazar greets him with his left, unbroken hand. "Cómo estás, mi hijito," the man says. "How are you, my son?"
Just then the pack whizzes by. Both men turn their heads to watch, and Salazar's eyes take on a glassy look. "¡Última, última!" another man calls from the side. It's the last lap. After the group passes, perhaps 10 minutes later, Corrales is standing on the edge of the bike lane, watching intently, waiting. "¡Campeón, campeón, campeón!" he cries as the first three bikers rush past.
"I thought there can only be one champion," a biker nearby jokes. Corrales, still watching the riders come in, answers without looking: "They are all champions."