Kaden Hopkins returns for national time-trial title defence
Kaden Hopkins is determined to retain his national crown after returning from competing overseas to race in the CG Insurance National Time-Trial Championships on Sunday.
With the threat of relinquishing his title, the 21-year-old gained permission from his team race director at Equipo Essax to travel back from Spain in order to attempt to claim a third successive victory in the Open Male category at Clearwater in St David’s.
While Hopkins is relishing the prospect of another successful title defence, he is well aware that he will once again face stiff competition, particularly from the likes of Connor White, just as he did in a close-fought race last year.
“It is always great to have the opportunity of winning a national title,” said Hopkins, who relocated to Spain after signing a one-year deal with the elite under-23 team of the illustrious Spanish Sax Cycling Club in December. “As well as the prestige of being a national champion, you also gain UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale] points which can be a requirement for World Championship events, so it is more than just a title.
“Equipo Essax were happy for me to come home and in fact they encouraged me to travel back and compete. I told them I would be prepared to stay if I was required to because the team is where my priority has to be. The director was really open and told me to come back because it will be good for me.
“As well as racing for a national title, it is also good mentally to be back home. I get the chance to see family and friends and also have a mental break from the constant focus of just training and racing in Spain.
“It’s great to have people like Connor on island and fighting again for titles. I’m definitely expecting another really tough race because National Championships always bring out a really strong field.
“No doubt it is going to be a close race and I’m sure it will closer contested than before. I’m also expecting speeds to be faster than before as well so it should be a really good race.”
As well as pressure from his rivals on the 19.2-mile course, Hopkins also conceded to being under the added pressure of greater expectations, from competitors, spectators and also himself, having raced at a higher level overseas.
“To win a national title would still be as special as before,” Hopkins added. “I’m determined to defend my title again and I know there will be some added pressure on myself not only being defending champion but also because I’m coming back from racing overseas.
“I’m used to having local eyes on me but I’ve also put more pressure on myself because I’ve been away racing at a higher level and so I’m expecting a big performance from myself. Having that experience riding in Spain means there’s definitely added pressure on me performing.
“Another issue with being away is that I haven’t ridden my bike here for months now and so the first few days will be about adjusting back to riding my Time-Trial bike here. Whatever happens it is great to have the chance to come home and challenge for another national title.”
Alexander Miller and Liana Medeiros will be aiming to defending their titles in the junior male and female categories respectively, competed over a 12.8-mile course, but there will however be a new female open champion with Caitlin Conyers away in the United States and confirmed not to be on the start line.
Registration for the race – which will also include junior age group categories, under-10, 11 to 12 and 13 to 14 – closes today. Anyone still interested in registering must do so online at www.racedayworld.com.