Criterium racing, probably the most exciting style of road cycling around, made a welcome return to the Cayman Islands last Sunday.
The racing takes place around a short circuit, with competitors gaining points by crossing the line in the top three on strategic laps.
Although the final lap carries the most points, the winner might not be the first one over the line at the end of the race, as is usual in bicycle racing.
Point-scoring laps are traditionally indicated by the ringing of a bell, leading to them being called bell-laps in cycling parlance.
The nature of the racing makes it very complex, but also suited to a field of greatly varying ability as the race regroups after the completion of each sprint lap.
The race started at Cost-U-Less on Lime Tree Bay Avenue, then turned left down the bypass, and left again at the Courtyard Marriot into West Bay Road, before making another left turn back into Lime Tree Bay Avenue to complete a lap.
With cyclists never having to cross traffic lanes the race did not present any great traffic problems, but the RCIPS was at hand in order to see to it that everything progressed smoothly and safely.
After a quick race briefing, the group headed off on their first lap, happily chatting and getting a feel for the route.
There were to be three bell laps, with a fourth sounding after 45 minutes indicating that the riders would enter the final three laps of the race.
The first couple of laps were completed at a relatively leisurely place. However, as they crossed the start/finish line and heard the siren announce that there would be points on offer on the next lap, the friendly ride turned into a tactical battle, with some riders launching probing solo attacks off the front of the group, while others tried to hide their intentions in the group while preparing to unleash a ferocious sprint as the group neared the line.
This time around, a small group succeeded in escaping the clutches of the peloton, with Vincent Jones from Jamaica crossing the line in first place, followed by Steve Abbott and Chris Sutton.
Although the peloton managed to regroup after the bell lap, the small breakaway would be the tactic of the day, with Jones taking the second prime over Steve Evans and Jerome Ameline.
The third prime saw Gary Clarke taking the line first, with Abbott placing second once again, and Mario Sanchez scoring his first points of the day in third.
With the peloton still somewhat fractured after the previous sprint the siren sounded for the final three laps, and Sutton and Evans launched an early attack in order to escape from the peloton.
On their first lap they were joined by Chuck Cobo, but he was unable to sustain the brutal pace and was soon forced to drop back to the main pack.
In spite of the substantial lead that Evans and Sutton had built up, the cyclists in the peloton seemed too intent on watching one another to take much notice of the escapees.
Even though the peloton woke up in the final lap, it was far too late to close the gap, and Sutton crossed the line first with an applauding Evans following him over in second place.
Jones unleashed a vicious sprint to take third, trailed home by Ameline, who try as he might could not catch the flying Jamaican.
Ricco Montemayor flew the flag for the Philippines, taking fifth place on the final lap.
After all the calculations had been done, there was a tie for first place, with Sutton and Jones both on eleven points.
However, due to Sutton taking the final sprint and according to the organisers the simple fact that he was older, the win was awarded to him, with Jones taking second.
Evans took third with nine points, followed by another draw for fourth, with Abbott and Ameline both scoring four points.
It was decided that the alphabet would be applied to that draw, which gave Abbott fourth place and demoted Ameline to fifth. The minor placings were filled by Clarke on three points, and Sanchez and Montemayor on one point each.
Race winner Sutton claimed that he had been banking on the fact that the peloton would underestimate the ‘old guys’.
‘There’s certainly no way I can compete in the sprint with people like Jerome and Gary – they’re just too quick,’ said Sutton.
‘So I thought the only way I am going to get on the points board is to go out. Steve was there on his own, so I thought I’d ask him if he was interested in joining up – and it worked! The gap opened up and they did not seem to compete, so that was excellent.
‘I couldn’t have done it without my partner in crime Steve – he was my mentor all the way around.’
The format of the event proved a hit with the participants and spectators alike, and race organiser Evans hopes to see even more participants join in future races.
The organisers would like to thank the police, marshals, National Roads Authority, Revolutions, and Cost-U-Less for their help in making the event a success.
The next event on the cycling calendar is a two-man time trial, which is scheduled to take place on August 17.
For more information on results and future events, visit www.cicycling.com