Oliveira: I can handle the pressure
Matthew Oliveira said he is confident of retaining his time-trial and road race titles at the XL Catlin Junior Caribbean Cycling Championships in Bermuda this weekend.
Oliveira will be competing in the top junior regional event — featuring more than 50 riders from 13 countries — for the final time and is determined to bow out with his titles intact.
The 18-year-old won both of his events in Barbados last year and claimed two silvers in the Dominican Republic in 2016 after missing 2017 in St Lucia through illness.
“I’m definitely hoping to retain my titles,” said Oliveira, who has spent the past few months racing for Hot Tubes, a top developmental team in the United States.
“This is my last year as a junior and I aim to do the best I can in my final championships.”
Competing in front of his own supporters will be both a blessing and a curse, according to Oliveira, who knows there is a target on his back as the rider to beat.
“Racing at home will mean I have much more pressure to win,” he said.
“It is both good and slightly bad in the way I may work myself up! Knowing the roads and courses will definitely help, though.”
The former Warwick Academy pupil is in top form after his third-place finish in the Junior Tour of Ireland in Ennis, Co Clare, last month.
“Ireland was a great block of racing, so I’m hoping I have gained some fitness from it to carry into this weekend,” said Oliveira, who will attend Loughborough University in Leicestershire in the autumn.
“My next big race is Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont [on August 31 and September 1] before heading to university in England.
“I will also be aiming to get on a good team who I can race for throughout the year within the UK and Europe.”
Also competing in her final Junior Caribbean Championships is Alyssa Rowse, who will be striving for her third straight time-trial gold.
Racing alongside Oliveira in the Junior Men’s division will be Kaden Hopkins, who won the pre-junior category time-trial race in 2016. Hopkins will also be racing in his final junior regional event.
Ziani Burgesson, Nazarai Fox, Alexander Miller and Nicholas Narraway, who won silver in the time-trial last year, will represent Bermuda in the Juvenile Men’s category.
All of the island’s nine riders will race in the road race on Sunday, but Fox and Miller will miss the time-trial on Saturday because each country can enter only two riders per category.
The time-trial will feature the same course as the national championships at Clearwater Beach and starts at 8.30am, while the road race in Prospect, Devonshire, begins at 8am, with the Junior Men’s race starting at 10am.
Peter Dunne, the Bermuda Bicycle Association president, believes the local contingent will be among the strongest teams in the event.
The other countries competing are Anguilla, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St Lucia, St Martin and Trinidad & Tobago.
“At least on paper it’s the strongest team we have had,” Dunne said.
“Ziani Burgesson, Nazarai Fox, Alexander Miller and Nicholas Narraway will be as good as a Juvenile team that we have put together.”
Bermuda previously hosted the championships in 2009, which Dunne believes acted as a springboard for the development of the sport on the island.
“When we last hosted it, we had just started the school cycling programme and we had guys like Dominique Mayho and Treshun Correia,” Dunne said.
“That was their first time competing and they got totally slammed. We see this as a springboard for further development and there will be a lot of pressure on the kids, but I think they’re up to it
“Matthew, Kaden and Alyssa have a lot of experience competing at big events and they will bring that. But the younger guys are so nervous. It’s almost entertaining how nervous they are.”
Dunne expects Enrique De Comarmond, of Trinidad, to be the biggest challenger to Oliveira. De Comarmond won both Juvenile races last year and has stepped up an age group.
“He will be very strong and there’s also a guy from Puerto Rico [Abner Rivera González] who finished one place behind Matthew in the junior race at World Championships [in Norway] last September,” Dunne said.
“Those are two riders who I know are super strong. Aruba are sending six or seven athletes and we haven’t seen any of them, as they haven’t been in this competition for several years.”