Cycling in Cayman has been picking up momentum gradually over the last couple of years. However, one thing that has remained constant is that cycling, like so many other things, remains centred around George Town.
The Reefathlon changed that, with a 19-mile time trial starting and finishing at the Reef Resort.
The event drew a good field, many of whom spent the night at the resort in order to better prepare for the race.
Apart from bragging rights, division winners would be rewarded with a voucher for a free stay at the Reef Resort. However, the big draw was a $1,000 prize for the fastest cyclist on the day, as long as he could hold a 27mph average speed for the 19 mile course. This translated to a time of 42:13, which was foremost in the minds of all the competitors.
The race brought out a number of Cayman’s Olympic cyclists, with Craig Merren acting as race director and Mitchell Smith manning the start line.
Cyclists set off at one minute intervals, with the fastest time for the loop taking the win.
Local cycling legend Perri Merren turned in a very powerful performance, claiming the fifth fastest time overall in 47:30.
He was pipped for fourth overall by Steve Evans, who showed that he can certainly mix it with the younger boys, putting in a very solid ride of 47:13. Cayman Classis series winner Steve Abbott claimed third place, with strong 46:25. A welcome return to form from Eugene Bonthuys saw him taking second, with 45:28.
However, the performance of the day was turned in my Jerome Ameline, who powered home almost two minutes faster than his closest competitor, clocking 43:30. However, this fell more than a minute short of the time required to claim the $1,000 bounty.
‘Race conditions were not the best as it was windy. Ok, it was windy for everybody, but the objectives were not only to go faster than everybody else but arrive in a time limit which the wind made me unable to do,’ said Ameline.
However, he remains confident that a 27mph average speed is not out of reach.
‘I believe that I could be able to go under 42 minutes if there is no wind at all.’
Justine Plenkiewicz claimed the women’s division with a strong 54:27 ride, closely followed by Julie-Anne Pearson in 55:10 and Donna Harding in 57:13.
Chris Sutton claimed the veteran’s division with an impressive 48:35, good enough for sixth overall, with Bill Gerlack taking second in the division in his final event in Cayman.
Toby Sutton was the top junior in 53:55, followed by Julian Johnson in 60:10.
The break-out performance of the day came from Cayman Helicopters pilot Jerome Begot, who took eighth overall. What makes Begot’s performance all the more impressive is that he has only been cycling seriously for around six months.
Event organiser Tom McCallum was very happy with the outcome of the first event.
‘To me the highlight was a great and relaxing evening the night before, catching up with old friends and making new ones. About 25 of 35 entrants stayed the night, making a weekend of it and most of them could be found warming down in the hot tub and pool until about midday after the race,’ he said.
The event also had more serious intentions.
‘Reefathlon is in support of the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and a contribution has been made by the organisers on behalf of each cyclist,’ McCallum said.
Island Supply and Greenware also sponsored the event as part of the Reef’s green initiatives.
McCallum thanked the Cayman Islands Cycling Association for their help in organising the event.
‘Reefathlon events, starting with the next event on 22 November, will bring a variety of cycling events, both fun and competitive, combined with a ‘Staycation’ side, to mix healthy participation in sports with involving the community in sports tourism,’ he said.
He also wants to draw overseas competitors, and has announced that the next edition of the race will feature a $1,000 bounty for a new course record.
According to Amline, this is certain to inspire cyclists to get out there and work on their speed.
‘Tom Mc Callum would be the perfect coach. He said that he will award the $1,000 prize to whoever will beat the course record, so there is no better motivation to do a little better next time,’ he said.
- For more information on future Reefathlon events, visit reefathlon.com.