Hopkins gets by with help from his friends
After days of uncertainty about whether the Winners Edge Road Race would take place because of the approach of Hurricane Teddy, a slight change of direction and lessening in strength of the second major storm in a week for Bermuda saw the organisers decision to go ahead rewarded with a strong turnout of cyclists.
With the A category competing on a three lap 46-mile race starting on Kindley Field Road, then taking them to Barkers Hill roundabout on North Shore Road and back to the start, the riders faced stiff winds and a hilly route.
After three action-packed laps Kaden Hopkins would take the victory but not without some selfless support from his Winners Edge team-mates Zander Miller and Nicholas Narraway, and a stiff challenge from another youngster Liam Flannery, of Team Gnosis, who would push Hopkins all the way to the line.
“When we saw VT Construction/Madison had put in a strong team Nic, Zander and I discussed our tactics and decided that we wanted to make it a very aggressive race,” Hopkins said.
“We have to race hard if we are going to improve and said if one of us went up the road in a break, we would leave gap and then try to bridge across as hard as we could and not let other riders settle into a pace.
“Nic and Zander put in some strong attacks right from the start and then Zander got off the front and when nobody went with him, we sat up and he built up a 1½ minute lead at one point and stayed there for a lap.
“In the headwind on North Shore the other riders got organised and started to work to pull him back and when we got to Crawl Hill and saw him ahead, I put in a huge effort on the hill to take the sting out of the other riders.
“We regrouped and I told Zander to sit in and recover. After we went through the start/finish for the last lap, Nic put in another big effort and Dom [Mayho] bridged back to him.
“The final break came on Crawl Hill when Liam Flannery and I got a gap and then after an amazing effort Nic came across to us.
“When we turned at Barkers Hill, we could see we had a lead of over a minute but continued to work hard together.
“As we crested Crawl Hill for the last time Nic got on the front and drilled it to Stone Crusher Corner, I was on his wheel and when he finally had to ease up, I went around him and just decided to push to the finish line.
“It was not even a sprint, I just tried to keep the power as high as I could and not let Liam come around me. That was a hard day”
In the women's 24-mile race, the new National Road Race Champion Rose-Anna Hoey, top rider Caitlin Conyers, Ashley Couper, and returning after an absence from racing Nicole Mitchell were all contesting for the win in what would be an attacking race with the VT Construction-Madison team aggressively trying to get one of their riders off the front.
It looked like they had succeeded when Couper broke away from the 12-rider group in the later stages of the race.
However, Winners Edge rider Mitchell bridged across and despite a slowing of the field, Bicycle Works rider Conyers powered across to the other two and then she and Mitchell opened up a gap on Couper.
In the finishing straight Conyers was clearly the strongest as she sprinted ahead for the win, with Mitchell coming runner-up two seconds behind and Couper third at 28 seconds.
Conyers said she was thrilled to be racing after a promising early season in the United States was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic which forced all races to be cancelled and for her to return to Bermuda.
“I have not been doing much riding since I got back from the US and so was not sure of my form coming into todays race,” she said.
“VT/Madison had the numbers again today and were attacking to try and get a rider away but Nicole and I both got off the front, and then it came down to a sprint and I felt surprisingly good. It is good to be back racing”
In the biggest field of the day, the B category also racing for 46 miles, 21 riders battled it out for honours.
Another of the island's juniors making his mark on local racing was VT/Madison rider Cameron Morris, who turned 15 years old on Friday, overcame the big pack of older and more experienced riders to take the win in an exciting sprint finish.
He beating out Bicycle Works rider Chequan Richardson by less than a second and Alan Mooney, of team Gnosis, also within a second for third place.
“It was a hard race, there were so many attacks going on and it was a lot of work to cover them,” said Morris, who suffered a mechanical issue.
“We were going up Crawl and I had a problem with my derailleur, so I went up the road and stopped to fix it. A group attacked so I had to chase them down”.
In the category C race, which was also held over a 24-mile course, it came down to a bunch sprint of six riders.
Peter Crayford, clearly having selected a perfect gear ratio in the strong headwind, took the win with five riders all timed within a second of each other.
Ricky Smith managed a second place and Nicholas Baily rounded out the top three.
The results would have been even tighter had it not been for the disqualification of Chris Nusum, who recorded the second fastest time but had been judged to have crossed the centre line.
Smith said: “It was a disorganised run in to the finish. A couple of riders were on the front and then just pulled over and I almost went off the side of the road.”