Kaden Hopkins takes step closer towards fulfilling professional dream
Kaden Hopkins has taken a huge step towards realising his dream of joining the professional cycling ranks after being signed to Equipo Essax team’s roster for next year.
The 20-year-old’s meteoric rise in the sport in recent seasons has seen him become one of the island’s most dominant forces, resulting in a number of impressive race wins, including the VT Construction Individual Time-Trial, Bermuda Rouleurs Cycle Club Individual Time-Trial and Road Race, the Winners Edge Individual Time-Trial and Road Race, the BJC Criterium and the Bermuda Time-Trial National Championships, this year alone.
However, it was his success in the Vuelta Independencia Dominica in the Dominican Republic as part of the joint Bermuda-Puerto Rico team in March, when Hopkins was crowned under-23 champion, which has proved his most significant.
His endeavours caught the eye of not only Tony Chamorro, the team’s the co-manager, but also professional Spanish rider Diego Milan, whose recommendation of Hopkins paved the way for the Bermudian rider to sign a one-year deal with the elite under-23 team of the illustrious Spanish Sax Cycling Club.
“I feel like growing up cycling in Bermuda we all dream of being given the opportunity to go and race overseas,” Hopkins said. “Being given the chance to do that in Europe is a huge step for me, and knowing I’ll be based there is just incredible.
“This is a huge milestone for me personally and to be honest a little surreal in what has been a difficult year. I was aiming to really make my mark overseas in 2020 and then everything got cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It felt like the year would be a bit of a write-off and I was feeling a little bit stuck in my progression and then this all came about. It all happened so quickly, but it’s really exciting.
“It’s not only an incredible way to end the year but also an amazing feeling knowing I have something concrete to look forward to next year. A lot of teams aren’t signing any riders and others are even going out of business, so it is great for me to have a clear picture of what is coming.”
The deal will see Hopkins relocate to the Spanish southeastern coastal region of Alicante on a permanent basis as of January with the youngster having to put on hold his college education at Fort Lewis College, in Durango, Colorado.
However, they are sacrifices worth taking, with Hopkins determined to seize on the advantage of the exciting opportunity being afforded to him in an ideal environment to continue making strides towards his professional aspirations.
“It’s a step below the professional ranks but a huge opportunity for me to join an established team’s development branch,” said Hopkins, who will continue his progression under the guidance of team director Joachim Gil.
“They’ve been talking a lot about making their mark and for me it’s a huge step towards the professional ranks by impressing from within the team itself.
“A lot of the big teams are now realising that there is a lot of real talent in their younger riders and so are trying to develop their own riders at a younger age. Being part of the under-23 team is a great way for me to develop by racing at a high level and have the chance to impress.”
Hopkins is already preparing to make an early impression with the team’s primary focus, the prestigious Spanish Cup, commencing at the end of February. As well as that competition, which runs until May, he can also look forward to racing throughout next year across Europe in Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and France.
“The main focus for the team will be the Spanish Cup, which is arguably the most prestigious amateur event there is,” said Hopkins, who has continued to rack up a high volume of miles in the saddle over the festive period in preparation of his move to Spain next month. “My main focus is to do all I can for the team and try and impress from the start.
“It’s still too early to know what the team expects of me, but if I can have some success in the time-trials, that would be great.
“It will be my first proper experience of racing in Europe, so it is all about gaining experience and developing. If I can help the team be successful, that would be brilliant.
“It’s a huge development step for me, so whatever happens I know I’m going in the right direction towards trying to become a professional rider.”