‘Matthew and Kaden show’ takes centre stage
Matthew Oliveira is the hot favourite to defend his title in the Sinclair Packwood Memorial Race tomorrow.
Oliveira, the most dominant island-based rider since his mentor Dominque Mayho moved to Belgium to race amateur level, beat runner-up Dave McComas and third-place Darren Glasford for a maiden title last year.
His biggest challenge will likely come from fellow 17-year-old Kaden Hopkins who has had to play second fiddle to his Winners Edge team-mate for much of the season.
The powerfully built Oliveira might have grabbed the headlines, retaining his Butterfield Bermuda Grand Prix title last month, but very little separates the pair, according to Peter Dunne, the Bermuda Bicycle Association president.
“It's going to be somewhat of a Matthew and Kaden show,” Dunne said. “It's just a question of how the others race against them. Matthew has a ton of power and is always in go mode to the extent that it's to his advantage when his competitors aren't.
“Kaden is a very disciplined rider so when it comes to a time-trial, or even a head-to-head sprint finish, he's able to hold back just a bit more.
“I know what their functional threshold power output is and their numbers are slightly different. But Matthew weighs a bit more so power-to-weight ratio is also important.”
While they will be rivals in tomorrow's race, starting in St George's, Oliveira and Hopkins will be required to work together on the international stage in the upcoming NatWest Island Games, Commonwealth Youth Games and the Caribbean Junior Cycling Championships.
“They are almost bookends for each other, which is a good thing from a team viewpoint,” Dunne added.
“It's great to have athletes at a comparable level.”
Once described as the closest thing to a lottery in Bermuda by Greg Hopkins, a former race winner and Kaden's father, there are tactical approaches that could help spoil the potential “Matthew and Kaden show”.
“It's unlikely they will leave it to a sprint finish as they ride on smaller gearing than the adults,” Dunne said.
“They would be at a mechanical disadvantage going into a head-to-head sprint with the likes of Darren Glasford or David McComas.
“Why bring multiple people to the finish line? You don't want to increase your chances of not winning.
“I anticipate they will ride pretty aggressively and the others will have to get off the front before Matthew or Kaden so they don't have to survive their acceleration.”
The women's race promises to be equally intriguing with Gabriella Arnold returning from Marion University in Indianapolis, Indiana, to defend her title.
She could have a battle on her hands with Alyssa Rowse competing in the senior race for the first time while Nicole Mitchell, Zoenique Williams and Ashley Estwanik are also potential contenders.
“It's a smaller race, as it always is, but I think it will be deeper in terms of real contenders,” Dunne added.
“It's the first time Alyssa will be one of the favourites and you also have Nicole and Zoenique, plus the likes of Rose-Anna Hoey, Sarah Bonnett and Ashley Estwanik. The person who chooses to be aggressive and take a lot of risks will be rewarded in that group. I think it will be fun to see.”