The 2013 Subway Classic Cycling Series came to a dramatic end with the fourth and final race in the series – the downtown criterium raced over a one-mile loop around picturesque George Town centre.
With Jerome Ameline coming into the day with a 3 minute, 40 second lead over his nearest competition it would have taken a total collapse for him not to secure the title.
The focus of the day’s competition, however, was on the other riders in the top three – Barry Jones, Steve Abbott and Michele “Mitchell” Smith, who after the previous week’s tactical racing were only separated by 17 seconds and 13 seconds, respectively.
Steve Clement in fourth place, some 2 minutes, 48 seconds out of second place, was also locked in a personal battle with Dennis Brooks, who was breathing down his back, the two being separated by two seconds.
Jones, who had won the second race in the series, has raced superbly in his first real test after an 18-month layoff.
He lost in the opening race of the series, the 10-mile individual time trial, by attacking from the gun and staying away for the whole 57 mile and then by riding like a wily veteran in the following Cost-U-Less circuit race to end the day without conceding any ground to Abbott, who came into the day in third place after the first two races.
Ameline, who was without pressure coming into the final race and who was returning to fitness despite a foot injury, had laid the foundation to defend the title he had won by two points on the final day in last year’s series, only had to ride conservatively to ensure his second consecutive title to add to a string of near misses.
Smith, who specialises in this style of racing, and Abbott, both having recently dominated the first criterium of the year coming off their participation in the gruelling Tour of the Dominican Republic and still holding their form, had other ideas.
The winners in the overall series in the Ladies and Juniors, Risa Goldberg and Darren Kelly, were pretty much set in stone before the final race because they were so far ahead.
Katrina Stewart and Ceretta Harvey rounded out the top three for the women and young Josh Weaver, whose ambitious attitude brought a breath of fresh air to the series despite a tender age of 11.
Despite the big age difference between Kelly and himself, his real competition was his mental fortitude and the distances which he conquered with more fight and determination than some of the senior, more experienced competitors.
His dad, Chris, deserves praise for sacrificing his ambitions in the Open category and staying back in support of one of the future stars of Cayman cycling.
The top three in the Masters category, much like the minor placing in the Open, were not a given as they were separated by 39 seconds and 2 minutes, 2 seconds, respectively, the equivalent of no more than a lap on the one-mile course.
When it was all over, new Masters champion was Jerome Begot, while Chris Sutton finished second and Laurent Weber third.
Once the race commissioner and president of the Cayman Islands Cycling Association, Craig Merren, set the riders off, Jones quickly came under attack from Smith and Abbott after a few fast paced laps.
Buoyed by their obliteration of the field in the previous criterium and trying to unseat him from his fragile grip on second place, they went for the kill.
Jones, who served long hours performing civic duties during the election process as a presiding officer in the district of George Town, focused what energy he could muster on Abbott, counting on Mitch’s none aggressive style of riding to date in the series, allowing the latter to go up the road after the initial few more fast laps.
Shadowed closely by Jones, Abbott then put in a searing attack which left Jones unable to sustain the effort, quickly deciding to relinquish his grip, not only on second place but also third as the competition rode away. In the end, Jones got lapped first by Smith and then by Abbott, who had put in a huge effort to connect with Ameline and Brooks.
Jones conceded no more time and eventually held on to fourth place.
In his crusade, Smith, who had done enough to surpass Jones, was eventually caught by the lead chase group.
Out of the final corner, Smith once again showed his class in this event as well as his sprint pedigree by taking his second win in succession and keeping a near perfect record in criterium racing.
Despite the win and maximum primes, Smith fell short of usurping Abbott, who just barely did enough to secure second place overall in the series by two seconds with a second place finish on the day, and had to settle for third in the series with Abbott’s enormous effort, in the final sprint, ensuring that there was not a count back, which Smith would have won on the fact that he had two race wins to Abbott’s one.
Ameline finished third and ended the series without a stage win, with Brooks taking forth and Jones fifth one lap down. Gabe Rabess, Steve Clements and Marius Deysel also finished one lap down of all the competitors in the Open category.
Ameline finished overall champion, Abbott was second and Smith third.
Jones said: “Unfortunately, I could not hold on to fourth place overall in the Subway, but I was satisfied with my overall performance of eighth, first, third and fifth.
“The win in the road race was especially gratifying especially as it was on Mother’s Day and it worked to plan knowing that I did my absolute bare minimum to prepare and be competitive for the series riding only three days a week for the three months that I have been back on the bike with no other supplementary training. This, however, was thoroughly exposed.
“In the last four years, I have spent a total of two years and nine months off the bike in two stints of retirement, the last of which I had no plans to come back from, however, I still believe a whole lot more to offer the sport.”
President Craig Merren thanked Subway, the exclusive sponsor of the event, and Troy and Lisa Burke as well as all the competitors for ensuring that the series was a resounding success.
“Subway came on board on very short notice but was able to accommodate our request and also ensured that we had enough health sandwiches to feed competitors’ and marshal alike,” Merren said.
“I would also like to acknowledge my vice president and righthand man, Barry Jones, for his vision to revamping the series which was enjoyed by all as well as all the marshals who ensured that the racing was incident free. We look forward to a bigger event next year.”
Troy Burke, on behalf of Subway, made the presentations and thanked the cycling association for putting on an exciting series.
Burke said: “Subway is committed to events such as Classics, which ties our brand of healthy foods with the healthy lifestyle promoted with a sport such a cycling. We look forward to next year’s event with great anticipation.”