Kaden Hopkins plays key supporting role
Kaden Hopkins enjoyed an improved performance in a tactically astute ride competing in the Klasika Primavera-Amorebieta in Spain on Sunday.
Having endured a steep learning curve in his first taste of riding in Europe — in the Cirilo Memorial Zunzarren at the end of last month — the 20-year-old returned to action with his Equipo Essax team-mates.
Tackling the rolling 110.9-kilometre course in the region of Amorebieta-Etxano in the Basque region, Hopkins crossed the line in 2hr 35min 34sec, which was good enougfh for 66th position overall from the 184 riders who took to the start line.
Mikel Retegi, of the Lizarte team, clinched victory in 2:32:18, pipping Vincente Santamaria to the line. They were closely followed by Igor Lizarraga, Pau Delgado and Ángel González — all clocking a time of 2:32:19.
Having had his maiden race ultimately ended by one excruciating climb last time out, the Bermudian rider was delighted with his improved performance.
“I was definitely pleased with my performance,” he said. “Unlike the last race which was predominantly climbing, this course was more rolling.
“I came in as part of a small group behind the second big group and I felt really satisfied to finish where I did. There was 184 who started the race and only 93 finished. It was another brutal day, so I was really happy to finish.
“I felt it was a better ride for me. I learnt a lot from the last race and even managed to lead our team on the climbs and help set the pace when needed.”
For Hopkins; the race signified far more than personal glory, having been tasked with a pivotal supporting role to the team’s climbing specialist, Steven Haro.
It was a duty that Hopkins undertook superbly, with the team’s tactics and vital support enabling Haro to seal an impressive seventh-place finish, fractionally behind the race winner in 2:32.22.
“It was all about the team,” Hopkins added. “My job now is not to ride for myself but to be tactical, and this race was about sacrificing myself for the best of the team.
“Steven is a really strong climber and has a lot of experience of racing in Spain. The director asked the rest of the team to take a lot of the workload on the flatter parts to keep him fresh for the climbs.
“The aim was to make the other teams work harder at the front and so it proved a tough first 70km or so for the team, as we had to instigate attacks and chase down any breakaways.
“The tactics worked really well and Steven said afterwards that he was extremely grateful for our amazing work throughout the race. He felt fresh on the climbs when he needed to be, and that was the plan from the outset.
“I know when a race is suited to me I can be more individual in my ride, but this was about giving the team the best chance possible.”
Continuing his adjustment to life in Spain, Hopkins’s immediate focus remains on preparing fully for the upcoming Spanish Cup Series, the most prestigious amateur races in Spain, which will be held over the next three weekends.
“Heading into these races my mindset is on improving and making sure I get myself ready for the more important races that are to come,” Hopkins said.
“For me, it’s all about building up to something and progressing within the team. I know that will come with time and, although I was happy with this race, I know there is more to improve on.
“I’ve been selected for the Spanish Cup Series and those are the really important races for us as a team. I’ll have another week or so to keep building up my training in preparation for those races.”