Dunkin’ Donuts is not the sort of place you would expect a dedicated band of cyclists to meet every month, but, hey, after a gruelling hour-long ride they deserve a carb overload.
Cycling is one of the best ways of exercising on Grand Cayman and its popularity is growing rapidly thanks to the local riders who are always looking to draw fresh blood.
The Cayman Islands Cycling Association meets at Dunkin’ Donut one Sunday a month more as a social event than to compete. It’s 8.30 and a group of around 30 riders, mostly men, have just enjoyed a leisurely ride of about 25 miles.
The club’s secretary is Steve Evans, a Scouser (Liverpudlian) who came here 12 years ago with his wife and never left. He works as an investment manager and only really took up cycling seriously on arrival because Cayman makes it so conducive, unlike the filthy, polluted, hazardous roads of England.
‘The donut rides are geared to introduce new people to the sport and we go only as fast as the slowest riders,’ he says. ‘We do a big tour of West Bay and last time we had some children as young as eight riding. ‘Cycling can be disheartening if you can’t keep up and you’re at the back so we make sure we foster a team spirit and camaraderie.’
Evans likes to compete in pro-am races in the US. He was last there in Tucson, Arizona in November. He tried the triathlon for a while ‘but I realised I wasn’t good at three sports so decided to concentrate on one’.
It was so addictive to Tony Watts, another Englishman who recently arrived here, that only three months after touching down he is riding around the island for 24 hours, covering 300 miles. Just for the hell of it!
No charity, no sponsorship, not even any publicity. Simply a spontaneous act of self-fulfilment – or foolishness – whichever way you want to look at it.
Watts, 42, is a land surveyor from Crowborough, East Sussex. He parked at the Frank Sound, near Breakers at 6pm on Saturday and will ride until the same time the next day, stopping occasionally for breaks. Fifteen hours into the run he is still strong. ‘I’ve only yawned once and the only thing sore is my groin,’ he says wincing slightly.
Watts is accompanied some of the time by American triathlete Larry Walters, a 60-year-old insurance executive who hopes to win his age group triathlon when it’s held here in November. The Peter Pan of his sport, Walters declares: ‘I feel like eight years old. In fact, when I grow up I want to be like Tony Watts!’
The cyclists are out again this Sunday (15 July) competing in a time trial from the Paradise Spa and Grill. They will race at one minute intervals the five miles there and back to Hurley’s Supermarket. Although the fastest will be around 23 minutes, Evans is inviting newcomers to join in the fun.
‘Only the top 15 riders are competitive. The top three are David Walker, Ashek Wright and Jerome ‘Fast Train’ Ameline. We’d love to get some youngsters coming down and training them up to be competitive.’
Ameline is a former restaurant worker who grew up in France around the sport through his father who raced. He realised a lifetime’s ambition with wife Cathy when they opened their own indoor cycling gym, Revolutions at the Barnett Music Centre, beside the Red Cross.
‘Many cyclists train there,’ Ameline says proudly. ‘We have 21 cycles in the gym but no weights. I teach 14 classes a week and for newcomers the first session is free.’
He has just bought three state-of-the-art stationary bikes with built-in computers that monitor every aspect of the human condition to assess people’s exact fitness level.
Donuts gratefully consumed, the riders head off into the bright morning sunlight, presumably for more gentle torture on two wheels. Me? My legs are too short for that. Pass the donuts please.