Junior race introduced onto sporting calendar
A new event has been added to the Bermuda Day sporting line-up, with the Bermuda Bicycle Association introducing a junior race to complement Sinclair Packwood Memorial Race.
Anton Gilbert came up with the race, which will start this year at Fort Hill in Devonshire, outside Bermuda Broadcasting Company, and finish on Cedar Avenue. The race, about 2½ miles, will start at 8.45am and finish minutes before the senior race which leaves St George's this year at 8.50.
“It was an idea that I came up with and proposed to the association and they went for it,” Gilbert revealed. “I took it to them about a month ago at one of the general meetings, thinking we would do it in 2020, and they said why not this year.
“It was something no one had ever thought of. The obvious issue is safety and ensuring that it doesn't affect the other events, and we found a nice slot for it to go into.
“Traditionally, junior races have been racing against the adults which makes it impossible for them to get recognition unless they are exceptional.
“In the past we've had a junior win it, like Carlos DeSilva, but normally when they are 16 or 17. Bermuda Day is the one time that Bermudians really recognise the sport, so it would be great to build up the youngsters in confidence and really spark more interest from the community to support the sport.”
The Heritage Day cycle race was renamed in 1999 in memory of two-time winner Sinclair Packwood (1992, 1993) who died in November 1998 at the age of 36. It is planned to have his family be present to hand out the awards at the end of the races.
The inaugural junior race will have about 30 male and female riders competing in three age groups, eight to ten, 11 to 12 and 13 to 14.
“A lot of the kids who will be competing in triathlon, so the field will be a mix of triathletes and pure junior cyclists,” Gilbert said. “There will be some first time riders and it will be good to see them get their feet into the racing.
“They'll all start together but the older boys and girls will be at the front,” Gilbert said. “Parents are certainly excited, they think it's great.”
Junior athletes will be left to decide between the cycle race and the popular Heritage Day Junior Classic road race which starts on Front Street and finishes at Bernard Park. That race was first held in 1997, with three junior athletes — Tyler Butterfield, Nuri Latham and Jonathan Herring — competing in the cycle race and then dashing back to Front Street for the start of the inaugural Heritage Junior Classic road race.
“By 9 o'clock we anticipate all the juniors finishing and then we'll wait for the adult cyclists to come in,” Gilbert said of the carefully thought out schedule. “It will be great for the junior cyclists to see the adult riders like Dominique [Mayho], Kaden [Hopkins] and Matthew [Oliviera] come sprinting in. Then we'll have a podium for the adults afterwards.”
Last year Mayho edged Butterfield in a sprint finish to win his third Sinclair Packwood race. Seeing the senior riders finish gives the junior riders something to aspire to, Gilbert believes.
“The parents are overly excited, they think it is great because we don't have enough cycling opportunities on Bermuda's busy roads,” he said. So to have their kids racing on closed roads with most of the country watching is really exciting for the parents and the youngsters.
“Some are very nervous because they know what 24th of May means and maybe they are starting to feel the pressure. Which is good because that is all part of growing in competition. When they hopefully get on the world stage in ten years they would have been through it all with Bermuda helping them to grow into that space.”