Kaden Hopkins set to take next step in burgeoning pro career
Kaden Hopkins is in talks with a number of teams as he prepares to take the next major step in his burgeoning professional cycling career.
Following a sensational season in which he notably made his mark representing Bermuda on the world stage at both the Commonwealth Games and the Under-23 Cycling World Championships, the 22-year-old has been attracting attention from interested parties.
With his current deal at Equipo Essax, the elite under-23 team of the Sax Cycling Club in Spain, coming to an end this week, Hopkins has a big decision to make after holding promising discussions with higher-level teams, including one at UCI Continental level, the third tier of professional cycling and another with a development squad of a Professional Continental level team.
“I have a number of calls and discussions with teams in the coming days and so I need to figure out what to do. By the end of the week I should know which team I’ll be representing next year,” he said.
“Equipo Essax always said they wanted to help me develop and give me an opportunity to move on to that next level. Being with the team was always as a stepping stone and holding on to me for the sake of it is not something they want to do so there will be no hard feelings when we part ways.
“Two of the teams I am talking to are a step up and race at a higher level than I am now. It’s exciting because my goal is to definitely make it as a professional.
“I didn’t always feel like that was a realistic ambition but now, with the form I have shown, it definitely is a realistic aim. My ultimate goal is to race at the highest level and find consistent form.”
Hopkins hailed the Commonwealth Games, in which he finished eleventh in the Time Trial and fourteenth in the Road Race against a stellar field of nations comprising Olympic and world champions and Tour de France and World Tour competitors, as a significant milestone in his season.
“The Commonwealth Games was definitely a breakthrough moment for me, everything just fell into place,” he added. “Competing against that level of competition, I never expected to do as well as that and after the Games I was riding high on that wave of excitement for a while.
Building on that, Hopkins kicked off the Under-23 Cycling World Championships in Australia with a highly respectable thirteenth in the Time-Trial, before enduring a tough outing in the Road Race, in which he was pulled out by officials at the start of the final lap of the 169.8-kilometre race.
While his campaign ended in disappointment, Hopkins chose to focus on the positives of another invaluable learning experience in his development.
“I had a goal of riding really well at the World Championships,” he said. Prior to Championships I had a really focused block of training in Andorra and went to Australia in great shape both physically and mentally; probably the best I ever had been in.
“I felt confident of a good result in the Time Trial and thankfully I was able to get a really good result. I felt like I almost executed the perfect race and I was really happy with my performance.
“The Road Race was a different story and didn’t work out how I would have wanted to at all. The weather was just awful with pouring rain and it was a really aggressive race from the outset.
“It was just chaotic but it was one of those races where you learn a lot from the experience. Those sort of experiences are vital and it all makes up part of the learning process that I can build upon.”
That learning curve has been a recurring theme throughout Hopkins’ season, particularly under the guidance of new coach Josep Codinach.
“Looking back it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster year,” added Hopkins, who is optimistic about what the future holds. “I got a new coach and that was definitely a big learning curve for me with new training methods and us just not understanding each other in the beginning.
“However, leading up to the Commonwealth Games something clicked and we seemed to have that understanding. Since July I’ve just seemed to get stronger and stronger and it is really encouraging and motivating to see how well we are working together.
“I have the Caribbean Cycling Championships coming up [October 22 in Dominican Republic] and then I can focus properly on next season. I’m really optimistic about moving forward, it’s really exciting.”