Smith’s tenacity clinches thriller

The Cayman Islands Cycling Association hosted its first annual Cayman Islands criterium championships on Sunday.

Competitors took to a circuit for 75 minutes of racing, followed by a final three laps. Apart from the final sprint for the finish, the race also included three intermediate sprints which were randomly announced by the ringing of a bell on the preceding lap.

The strong starting field included all the usual suspects, with Cayman Classic series winner Steve Abbott leading the way.

However, he would face stiff competition for the title, especially from the likes of Jerome Ameline and Mitchell Smith.

The hard man of local cycling, Perri Merren also took to the start line and the favourites were certain to keep a close eye on him as well.

The race started with a neutral warm-up lap to familiarise all participants with the circuit. However, as soon as the siren went to announce the official start of the race, the attacks started as well.

Although a number of participants tried their luck early on, every move was eventually pulled back by the pack. However, as the pack started to tire, it took longer for riders to close the gaps.

Quite early in the race Smith and Abbott managed to get up the road, with Ameline bridging to the dangerous move. From there on there was little doubt as to who would contest the win, as the chasing bunch lacked the organisation and horsepower needed to rein in the break.

At the first sprint lap, Smith took maximum points, pulling clear of his two breakaway companions with ease. Abbott finished second, with Ameline mopping up the remaining points in third.

With no points on offer for fourth, the chasing group rolled over the line without contesting the sprint.

The second sprint, as well as the third, all went the way of Smith.

Behind the break the rest of the field broke up and reorganised throughout the duration of the race as the cyclists struggled with the high pace being set at the front.

As the heat and fatigue took its toll on the peloton cyclists started dropping out, electing to view the finishing sprint from a comfortable position in the shade rather than contesting it.

In the lead group it had become clear that Smith was the strongest rider on the day, and would be impossible to beat in a head to head sprint for the line.

Although Ameline and Abbott tried to rid themselves of Smith, he was too strong. Even when Abbott managed to attack, he only distanced Ameline, while Smith remained glued to his wheel.

As the group rounded the final bend, Smith was well clear, and took a comfortable victory over Ameline, who managed to outsprint Abbott for second.

In the women’s division, Toni Pinkerton and Caroline Heal were involved in close contest for points. However, Pinkerton managed to stay with the main pack longer than Heal, which allowed her to mop up the points as she went along without having to contest the sprint.

In the masters division, Chris Sutton continued his incredible run of results, claiming first place in all the intermediate sprints, while Bill Gerlack and Max Obreist battled it out for second place. An unfortunate puncture put Obreist out of the running and although he was able to finish the race, second place went to Gerlack while Obreist had to the satisfied with third.

Among the young guns, Toby Sutton found himself relegated to the second step of the podium. However, the Suttons kept it in the family as older brother Laurence took the win.

The next big race on the Cayman cycling calendar is the Cayman road race championships, which will be contested over a 65 mile course on Sunday 20 September.

However, many local cyclists are already looking forward to November, which will see the second running of the Cayman Invitational stage race. The event will take place from 14-16 November and will feature local cyclists as well as top international professionals.