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Juniors to take on best in the world

European competition: a group of young cyclists are heading to the Netherlands to take on the world's best (Photo by Akil Simmons)

The Bermuda Cycling Academy will send a team to compete overseas for the first time during Cup Match week when seven members, ranging in age from 11 to 15, compete at the six day stage race on the European Junior Cycling Tour in Assen, Netherlands.

The event is Europe’s largest junior cycling event, and attracts between 700 and 800 cyclists from around the world.

The Bermuda youngsters will compete in five categories, including time trial, road race, criterium and circuit races. Anton Gilbert, the Bermuda Cycling Academy president who will accompany the team as coach, admits it will be a tough test for the team as they compete against a future generation of professional cyclists.

The Bermuda team will be made up of Enshe-nico Davis, Nazarai Fox, Micah Cook, Malik Joell, Benjamin Edwards, Dylan Hill and Zion Dowling.

Hill finished second in the recent Sinclair Packwood Memorial Junior race and already some of the riders are starting to make their mark in local road races.

“The standard is going to be the highest in the world for junior cycling,” Gilbert said. “Teams from South Africa, Australia, the UK, US and South America will be there and this is our first time travelling to the event.

“It is the only UCI sanctioned junior cycling race in the world. I decided it would be a great cultural experience for these guys and will also be a networking opportunity for me to see how I can improve the programme.”

The Bermuda Cycling Academy has only been in existence since January and have been training for this event since that time.

“This week we are doing as much as 15 to 20 hours on the bike, but that’s what is required to meet the standard of racing they will be going up against,” Gilbert said. “We are members of the Bermuda Bicycle Association but as a programme we’re not, this is a developmental bicycle programme in Bermuda for young people so any rider from any team can come and learn how to ride bikes.

“We encourage all of our riders to compete and our 15-year-old boys like Dylan Hill and Zion Dowling race with Bermuda’s elite men and do quite well. It’s a great feeder programme and because we are not a team, more of a programme, they are allowed to join other teams.”