Kaden Hopkins determined to put Bermuda on the cycling map
Kaden Hopkins is relishing every opportunity to make his mark riding in Europe after enjoying his first taste of Spanish Cup action at the weekend.
Having had a period of adjustment to life in Spain as part of Equipo Essax, Hopkins was handed his biggest test to date in the opening race of the Spanish Cup Series, the nation’s most prestigious amateur competition.
Set through the city of Torredonjimeno, the gruelling 165-kilometre course admittedly proved a steep learning curve for the Bermudian rider, who valiantly stayed within the leading pack until a final climb ahead of a sprint finish proved decisive.
A small group managed to make a decisive breakaway with Timo de Jong, of the Telco'm-On Clima-Oss, clinching victory in 4hr 3min 44sec ahead of Marc Brustenga and Sergio Trueba Cagigas. Hopkins crossed the line within a bunch of riders in a time of 4:25:00.
For the 21-year-old it was another invaluable learning experience in his development on a bigger stage and he continues to strive to put not only himself, but Bermuda, on the map on the European circuit.
“Being involved in this level of racing is a huge experience for me and I knew it wouldn’t be easy because I’m stepping up to another level,” he said.
“I’m up against established riders with more than ten years of riding in Spain and so I know it’s all about being on that learning curve.
“It’s always been a big thing for me to be from a small island and trying to make an impression in big races. I know it will take time, but I’m confident that will come.
“It motivates me in every race to try and put Bermuda on the map. I try and take extra motivation from the small things such as being lucky to able to commit to racing full time at my age and being supported in doing so.
“I want to make an impact and I know I am working towards making that happen.”
Reflecting further on the race itself, Hopkins knew he faced an uphill struggle from the outset with the course favouring the climb specialists as well as attempting to disrupt the larger established teams.
“I knew it was going to be a tough race going into it,” he said. “It was roughly 100 miles of climbing 9,000ft, so I knew it was going to be a day for the climbers.
“I spent the first two hours of the race trying to force an early breakaway, but unfortunately one never really happened and by the time it got to the climb, I got dropped by the leaders.
“Pretty much every race I’ve been involved in, in the United States or Caribbean, you can go in with a plan it and it almost always worked out how you expected.
“However, here the level is so high that the big teams can always pull anyone back. They control the races so well that you have to try and be smart with your energy.
“Every week I’m improving and I’m being given every opportunity to race, so I’m on that learning curve all the time.”
Moving on from the tough opener, Sunday offers Hopkins hope for renewed optimism as the second race of the series heads to the city of Valladolid on a course that should better suit his sprint and endurance strengths.
“After the first race I’d say I’m pretty averagely placed in the classifications, but I have to remind myself that I’m new to this and in every race more than 150 or so riders are starting but only 90 to 100 are finishing, so I’m doing well.
“The next race is a much flatter course, so it should suit my strengths a lot more.”