Windy conditions in East End ensured that the Reefathlon course record on Sunday, 21 November would be tough to beat.
However, that did not stop a strong field from turning out in the hope of bettering their personal bests on the scenic yet challenging 19 mile course.
One of the main draws of the event was the return of course record holder and Garmin-Transitions pro cyclist Peter Stetina, who had made the trip to Cayman this year not only to defend his title, but also to join the rest of his team at their first team training camp from 28 November to 3 December.
Stetina’s record of 38 minutes 33 seconds was expected to be under threat, as the rider had his first full year as a top level professional behind him. However, he was quick to point out that he had only recently started training again after his off season and that a record time would require excellent weather conditions.
The event started with the traditionally slower riders setting off first, with Stetina set to be the last cyclists off.
The riders set off at one minute intervals, with the splits intended to keep riders from bunching up on the course and working together.
However, from reports on the course it was clear that in the middle of the pack there were a number of cyclists who may well have benefitted from drafting, something not allowed under time trial rules.
With a tail wind on the first section of the course along the Queen’s Highway, everyone had hopes of a good time. However, as soon as they turned onto Frank Sound Road, the going became a little bit tougher, but it was once cyclists came to the end of Frank Sound Road and turned back towards East End that the wind really bit.
Even a highly experienced cyclist like Stetina found the going tough, with the smaller and lighter riders suffering even more greatly.
As he crossed the line, he knew he hadn’t been fast enough for a new record, even though his time of 39:22 was still the second fastest time ever recorded on the route.
After Stetina, the rest of the podium finishers trailed in, as he had left them in his dust on this short tour of the Eastern Districts.
Abbott recorded the second fastest time on the day and although his 43:09 was a new personal best, it was well short of the local course record set by Michele Smith earlier this year.
Johan Heath continued his good run of form, coming in with the third best time of the day in 43:41, with Johann Prinsloo in fourth.
Stetina was philosophical about the result. “That’s just how it is – in some countries you have mountains, and in some countries you have wind, and in Cayman it was all about the wind yesterday, and unfortunately it really picked up in the last week or so I guess,” he said.
“I got close, but I need a little help from Mother Nature to break my own course record but I still had a great time and I won and I got people excited about the pro camp.”
In the ladies’ division, Caroline Cahill charged home in a time of 53:10, well clear of Gill Comins who finished second in 54:04, with Pam Travers finishing third in 55:19.
The junior division delivered the expected battle between Michael Testori and Toby Sutton, with Sutton coming out the winner this time around in a time of 47:02, just ahead of Testori who finished second in 47:25. Julian Johnson displayed great courage to finish in third, in spite of a nasty-looking crash in the finishing straight.
In the masters’ division, Laurent Weber took an impressive win over his nemesis Chris Sutton. Weber came home in 46:16, more than a minute ahead of Sutton, who took second in 47:18, followed by Doug Steeves in third.
According to Stetina the Reefathlon is an event he really looks forward to, especially as it allows him to escape to some nice warm weather – quite different from what you find this time of year in his home town of Boulder, Colorado.
“It’s one of the great benefits of the off season – when you’re slogging away in March in Belgium I can look back to this inside and maybe get a little warmth,” said Stetina.
“I’m really happy that the Reef and everyone from the Cayman Islands Cycling Association, the Department of Tourism and everybody is willing to help put my up and come down, and I’ve enjoyed making a bike vacation out of it.”
For an opportunity to meet Stetina and the rest of the 2011 lineup of the Garmin-Cervelo team, including world champion Thor Hushovd, on 2 December, visit caymancycling.com