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Pressure tells in quickest race of the year

Gunning for glory: the Sinclair Packwood Memorial Road Race title is the most coveted for local cyclists

It is the shortest bike race that takes place on Bermuda’s roads, a little more than 12 miles.

In other cycling countries to suggest there even was such a road race would likely get, at the least an inquisitive, and at most, a disbelieving look from cycling aficionados.

Let’s face it, the action is all over in a little more than 23 minutes, hardly time to even get warmed up many would argue.

So, if that is the case, why is it that the Sinclair Packwood Memorial Road Race, which will take place on May 24, is regarded by the vast majority of local riders as the most coveted title in cycling in Bermuda.

Perhaps it is because of the fact that the race is staged on the island’s biggest holiday?

Could it be because the roads on this day are lined with spectators pretty much the whole way from Somerset to Hamilton?

Or that there is live radio coverage from a lead vehicle reporting the blow-by-blow action as it happens, and television coverage in the days that follow?

Maybe it is the significance of the event and its history, especially because of the determined efforts of the individuals who fought to convince the authorities to allow the race to take place for the first time in 1987, and in particular the person who the race is named in honour of, Sinclair Packwood?

The simple answer is, yes, all of the above, and probably much more.

Everyone on the start line in Somerset will have dreamt of winning many times in the preceding weeks causing some restless if not sleepless nights.

With less than a week to go the race is the hot topic of conversation within the cycling fraternity.

Without doubt the residents in the West End will have noticed groups of riders in the area in the early hours, huddled together in deep discussion before setting off for Hamilton in tight formation, practising their tactics for the big day.

However, all the hype, hoopla, anticipation of the occasion and significance of the event come with an unseen factor that will often affect the final outcome and dash the dreams of many on the day: pressure.

Despite every rider wanting to win, and many being capable of doing just that, the fact is that on the day their own personal expectations and the expectations of others proves to be too much, and for many riders things will not go to plan.

This year will see, in my opinion, arguably the strongest, most powerful group of riders ever assembled on the start line.

Having raced the first event in 1987, and many times since, including my own moment of glory in 1999, as well as having witnessed races first hand from the lead vehicle in recent years, I am confident this could be the fastest and most exciting edition of this very special event.

But I emphasise, could. The only thing that stands in the way of a classic, perhaps record-setting race this year is the riders themselves.

The reason I say that goes back to that one word, pressure, much of which is self-inflicted.

Many riders who are normally prepared to throw caution to the wind and just go for broke, just do not. The strongest riders in the pack often hold back and do not show their true colours.

They just will not take a chance and do not commit when under normal circumstances they would blaze the trail.

The reason is simple, it is the Sinclair Packwood Memorial Road Race and the risk of coming down Front Street in front of thousands of screaming spectators “off the back” is often too great, so they play it safe.

Sure riders have broken away and soloed to victory in the past and taken the accolades that are thrown at them for days, weeks afterwards.

In fact truth be known, the winner of the event will go down in local cycling history. So why do so many who are clearly capable of being a winner fall short of their potential to win when on any other day probably could?

Only they can answer that question.

One thing is for sure this year, if all the riders let go of their fears this could be the fastest, most exciting race in its long history, providing the thousands of spectators with a race that will make this special day, even more special.