Six races, six golds on home turf
Bermuda completed a clean sweep of gold medals at the XL Catlin Junior Caribbean Cycling Championships on the island at the weekend.
Team Bermuda emphasised their regional dominance in the sport by winning all six races — three time-trial and three road race — in the Juvenile Men, Junior Women and Junior Men’s categories.
Alyssa Rowse and Nicholas Narraway claimed a pair of golds each in the Junior Women and Juvenile Men, respectively, while Matthew Oliveira won the road race and Kaden Hopkins the time-trial in the Junior Men.
There were also bronze medals for Ziani Burgesson in the Juvenile road race and Hopkins in the Junior Men as Bermuda enjoyed their most successful showing at the annual championships.
Oliveira, the defending champion in the Junior Men’s events, suffered a flat tyre in the time-trial in Clearwater Beach on Saturday and was unable to finish, but dusted off his disappointment to win the 80-kilometre road race in Prospect yesterday. He was helped in no small part by Hopkins before comfortably beating Abner González, of Puerto Rico, in a sprint finish.
Oliveira finished in a time of 2hr 3min 58sec, with González crossing the line 2:04.01 and Hopkins in 2:05.14. Bermuda’s Alexander Pilgrim came sixth in 2:17.09. “I was pretty much gassed the whole way,” Oliveira, 18, said. “Me and Kaden got away on the first lap and held it for about half a lap before getting reeled back in.
“It wasn’t long until we went again and brought the Puerto Rican [González] with us. We held him off until the last lap on North Shore. Kaden did a lot of work and had a cramp in his leg. He just pedalled softly for third, which was really good. I managed to outsprint the Puerto Rican up the hill. I knew I had a better sprint than him.”
Oliveira said he was determined to finish his final championships on a medal-winning note, particularly after his setback in the time-trial.
“It’s one of my final races as a junior, and I wanted to do something spectacular in my last race on home turf,” he said. “All of the support has been absolutely fantastic. I felt some serious power coming over the last climb and couldn’t even hear myself breathing.”
The former Warwick Academy pupil will continue his cycling development at Loughborough University in Leicestershire — one of the best sporting universities in the world.
“It’s a great place and has the best facilities for sport,” said Oliveira, who has spent the past few months racing for Hot Tubes, a top junior team in the United States. Hopkins could not have been happier for his team-mate and was delighted with his own medals success at the championships, the first in Bermuda since 2009.
“When I saw Abner come with us [on the second break], I knew he would be hard to get rid of,” Hopkins, 18, said.
“We were together for the last six [of eight] laps and with 1½ to go I felt my leg starting to lock up. I knew it was time to start working for Matt as I wasn’t going to make it to the end with them.
“I knew Matt was going to be the biggest man going into today, and it was awesome to see him come through.”
Hopkins, who will attend Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, said he settled into a pace he could sustain without cramping for the remainder of the race.
González, who finished ahead of Hopkins but behind Oliveira at the UCI Road Race World Championships in Bergen, Norway, last year, said he was satisfied with his pair of silvers.
“They [Oliveira and Hopkins] formed a breakaway from the start and were working together all of time,” González said through an interpreter.
“It was hard keeping an eye on both of the Bermuda guys. When they attacked it was two against one, so it was hard. I give thanks to the organisers for such an amazing event. It was a beautiful race.”
Rowse enjoyed another comfortable win in the 50km Junior Women, finishing in 34:36.9 — more than five seconds ahead of second-place Llori Sharpe, of Jamaica, in 39:47.9. Kaylyn Gillet, of Belize, was third in 50:38.8.
“It was an amazing way to finish my junior career,” said Rowse, who will attend the University of Manchester.
“I opened up a small gap with a girl from Belize [Taralee Ordonez], but unfortunately she got a mechanical on the hill by Somersfield Academy. I just kept going for the rest of the way to keep the lead.”
It was also a memorable weekend Narraway, who thanked his team-mates Burgesson, Alexander Miller, fifth, and Nazarai Fox, twelfth, for assisting in his convincing win. Narraway finished the 60km race in 39:18.5, with Emmanuel Ortiz, of Puerto Rico, second in 46:52.1, and Burgesson third in 46:52.5.
“I didn’t expect to win two golds,” Narraway, 16, said. “My team helped hold the rest of the pack up and let me get the seven-minute gap. They all played a good part and tried their hardest. In road races the team is everything.”
Burgesson, 15, said he knew a podium finish was within his grasp. “I worked hard and tried to work for my team-mates,” he said. “I had a feeling I was going to get a podium — I knew I was one of the strongest. Next year, I step up to the Junior, so I’m going to be working hard.”
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