Building on a cycling legacy

Cycling in Cayman is experiencing its best season since the halcyon days of Olympic participation in the 1980s and early 1990s. The recently concluded Cayman Classic provided a cliff-hanger ending with the overall title remaining in the balance until the end of the last race in the series.

With consistently high participation numbers, the events showed that cycling is regaining its popularity, with even spectator numbers showing a significant upswing.

The winner of this year’s overall title, Steve Abbott, only returned to cycling recently, showing remarkable improvement to claim the overall win.

In fact, out of the top six cyclist overall, four either made their return to competitive cycling recently, or in the case of Michael Stomps only took up the sport a bit more than a year ago.

Second place finisher Jerome Ameline was not content to stick to winning the time trials, as he claimed his first road race title to demonstrate his versatility as a cyclist.

Mitchell Smith, who finished in third place overall, might have made a return to competitive cycling recently, but as someone who represented Cayman in the Olympic Games, he had a solid foundation to build on.

Fourth place went to Stomps, with event organiser Steve Evans taking fifth. Barry Jones also made a recent return to the sport yet managed a very solid sixth place overall.

The five races in the series delivered four different winners. Jones took the first prologue time trial, with Ameline claiming the second event, a 45-mile road race. Overall winner Stomps claimed the third event, a circuit race, while Stomps claimed the fourth event, a 65-mile road race.

Ameline became the only cyclist in the series to claim two wins when he took the final 10-mile time trial, although it was not enough to give him the series title.

The women’s series was thoroughly dominated by Caroline Heal, also a more recent convert to cycling.

Heal claimed the first and third races of the series, with second places in the second and fifth events cementing her title.

Solid performances throughout the series allowed Toni Pinkerton to claim second place overall even without an event win to her name. She shared second with Julie-Anne Pearson who claimed the second race of the series.

Annelle Rabie claimed third overall thanks to solid performances in the first and third events of the series.

The final two event produced surprise winners in the ladies division, as Anne Linstad claimed the 65-mile road race while Celine Macken stamped her authority on the final 10-mile time trial.

The masters division saw complete domination by Chris Sutton, who won every single event in the series in impressive fashion. Max Obriest claimed second place overall, with Bill Gerlack taking third.

Toby Sutton went toe to toe with the senior men, leading many to forget that he was still racing as a junior, a division which he claimed uncontested.

‘The committee is so very pleased to see that its goals stated in its vision, of being a club which avoids elitism and encourages participation at all levels, are being met,’ said Cayman Islands Cycling Association vice president Evans.

The success achieved in making the events as inclusive as possible has been reflected in the increased participation of masters, women and juniors in the series.

One of the key elements in making the events accessible to participants of varying abilities has been for all road races to start with a neutralised section. During the neutralised portion of the event, the peloton keeps a smooth, steady pace, allowing less experienced cyclists to experience the thrill of riding in a big group.

‘It is in those first 10 miles where we capture the hearts and minds of future racers both young and old,’ said Evans.

At least some of the interest in local cycling can be credited to the Cayman Invitational event which made its debut in November last year.

The event featured star international cyclists like 2008 Tour de France fourth place finisher Christian Vande Velde, and former top five Tour de France finisher Peter Luttenberger.

Former US Professional road champion Chris Wherry as well as top developing talent like Peter Stetina joined local cyclists for a festival of cycling that was very nearly derailed by the arrival of hurricane Paloma.

The event provided local cyclists with the rare opportunity of meeting and riding with top professionals.

From social events and training rides with the pros to head to head competition, the local cyclists had a great experience. The pros were also quite impressed by the passion and ability of the local cycling contingent.

Quite a number of local cyclists have kept up contact with the foreign contingent who are all keen on returning to Cayman for the second edition of the event.

Stetina referred to his win in the road race event of the Cayman Classic as the first international win of his career, but has since gone on to make waves in the cycling world with a number of very impressive results that augur well for his future.

The organisation of an ambitious event like the Cayman Invitational is quite a challenge for the event organising committee, but the solid groundwork laid with the first edition of the event promises to make the task much easier the second time around.

‘This event really requires public sector support and we urge enthusiasts to get involved in obtaining corporate sponsorship and giving their assistance with organising,’ said Evans.

The Cayman Invitational will once again take place during Pirates Week, taking the format of a three-day, four stage event.

‘It’s a tremendous opportunity for local businesses to promote their name. Unlike many other sports, the event occurs on the open roads within the community, and so offers high visibility and a good return on sponsorship dollars,’ he added.

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