Cayman cyclists used last weekend’s duathlon to crank up for the always keenly contested four-part May Classics series that begins on Sunday.
This is one of the most competitive events on the cycling calendar and the first one is a 5 kilometer individual time trial.
It starts and finishes at the Savannah Bypass, just past the Chrissie Tomlinson roundabout, at 7 a.m.
The following Sunday, May 11, it’s a circuit race from Governor’s Square, then it’s a 58-mile road race from Clifton Hunter School in North Side on May 18, and finally on May 25 the Heroes Square Criterium in central George Town.
Michele “Mitch” Smith is the firm favorite for the May Classics title and Steve Abbott, Jerome Ameline and Pedro Lopez Ramos the likeliest contenders.
Ramos won his first ever title on Sunday, the Genesis Trust Duathlon, and although cycling is his favorite sport, he is a novice. The others have been on the cycling circuit forever, especially Smith who at 44 has been an elite rider all his adult life.
Ameline won the Classics last year and was in the duathlon on Sunday, showing excellent form, easily recording the fastest bike leg and winning the team event with visiting runner Miriam Juarez.
Ameline believes he can retain the Classics title he has captured in the last two years, although his best event, the time trial, is only 5k this year, much less than the usual distance.
“I have been training hard since December and I’m confident I can win for a third year running,” Ameline said. “I’m all pumped up.”
Barring an unexpected incident, it looks like Ameline and Smith are most likely to contest first place with Abbott and the rapidly improving Ramos vying for third. “My confidence is pretty low right now,” Smith joked. “Pedro is frightening me out of my socks.”
Smith really has every reason to feel confident about the Classics. “I like the Classics because it’s a series, one right after the other, and everyone has a goal of being the overall winner, so that gives you the momentum of going after something,” he said.
Smith is in tremendous shape as he is preparing for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in Scotland in July. He has competed in two Olympic Games (1988 and 1992) and two Commonwealth Games (1986 and 1990) so will not feel out of place there.
The fact that Smith is also unbeaten in all four cycling events staged so far this year emphasizes just how far clear he is of the rest.
The Classics are only a minor part of his preparation. To get super-fit for Glasgow he will compete in two circuit races and one time trial in Ocala, Florida and 10 circuit races and a road race on consecutive days in Wisconsin.
He is entered for the 177 kilometer road race and a 40k time trial in Scotland. So will we see him on the podium in Glasgow? “No, I don’t think so,” he laughed. “Unless everyone crashes in front of me!”
Meeting the criteria to be there is an achievement in itself. He added, “My goal for the Commonwealth Games is just to go there and try to finish. In the time trial I’ll try to get a personal record.”