Golden displays from Oliveira and Rowse
Matthew Oliveira stormed to two gold medals by winning the time-trial and road race at the Junior Caribbean Cycling Championships at the weekend.
Bermuda dominated the podium in Barbados, with Alyssa Rowse also bringing the curtain down on her spectacular season, defending her title in the girls' time-trial and taking silver in the road race.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Narraway outlined his potential by claiming silver in the time-trial in the juvenile category.
It has certainly been a season to remember for 17-year-old Oliveira. He seized gold in the time-trial and bronze in the road race at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Nassau, Bahamas. He then represented Bermuda at the Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway, before being invited to race for top United States junior development team, Hot Tubes, at the Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont.
Oliveira said the time-trial terrain suited his power-riding style, finishing the 20-kilometre course in 28min 0.53sec, 1:16 ahead of Jacob Kelly, of Barbados, in second place on Saturday.
“The time-trial course was relatively flat, which suited my riding style,” Oliveira said. “I used that to my advantage and gave it all I had.”
The Warwick Academy pupil then dug deep in difficult conditions, riding solo for much of the road race for his second win of the weekend yesterday.
“I got off the front of the race within the first lap of seven,” said Oliveira, who missed the championships last year because of illness. “I had two riders with me, one from Guadeloupe and one from Antigua. By the second lap, I was on my own and still had 45 miles to go.
“It was brutally hot and humid, which was absolutely tough to ride in alone with no other riders to help. I went through about eight water bottles to stay hydrated within 2½ hours!”
Oliveira was at his best yesterday, according to Peter Dunne, the Bermuda Bicycle Association president, riding an incredible race and “making all the others suffer and splitting the race at will”.
Dunne was also fulsome in his praise of Rowse, with the 17-year-old almost capturing a double gold herself after being outsprinted at the finish in the road race.
“This caps a strong year for her,” Dunne said of Rowse, who also excelled at the Commonwealth Youth Games, winning bronze in the time-trial. “We are already talking about 2018 and what additional events can help her develop further as a cyclist.”
Kaden Hopkins came close to a podium in the time-trial, finishing fourth before struggling in the road race because of illness.
“I know Kaden has not had the weekend he had hoped for ... a worsening illness made today's race too much,” Dunne explained.
“He will now be able to recover from the bug he has and recharge his batteries.”
Narraway followed up his silver in the time-trial with a fourth place in the juvenile road race, while team-mate Ziani Burgesson came fifth in both of his races.
Also competing in Barbados was Conor White, of Brock University, in Ontario, who made his debut in the junior road race.
“The steep hill was brutal for the big men, but on the descent [Conor] was able to get back in to the chasing bunch,” Dunne said. “This is a very tough event but after a strong year he will enter the senior ranks next year and should be a candidate for further development.”
Dunne said there was no secret to Bermuda's success at the junior level this season — just plain old hard work and dedication.
“I'm amazed with the results our Bermuda kids continue to get at this regional championships,” he added.
“Many of the other federations are asking what the secret Bermuda has for cycling talent. The answer is simple: Just a great group of dedicated young athletes who commit to the sport and do it with passion.”