Novice riders took on more experienced and faster cyclists in a 27-mile handicap race that started off in Bodden Town Sunday morning.

The race, starting in three groups of local and international cyclists, was the first for the Cayman Islands Cycling Association.

“It was an exciting time for the 29 riders despite the very hot pace and hot day for the race,” said Craig Merren, president of the Cycling Association.

The first group of cyclists sprinted off from the EverGlo Bar and Restaurant parking lot at 7:18 a.m., followed closely by the second group and then finally the top riders, after receiving final instructions from Edward Howard, the Cycling Association’s secretary.

The three groups made their way through North Side, onto the Queen’s Highway, through East End and back to Bodden Town.

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The race saw Group 3, made up of riders from a Miami-based cycling club as well as some local competitors, overtaking the first team of novices and battling the second team for the sprint to the finish line.

James Melen, riding with the second group of riders, was the first one over the finish line, clocking in at 1 hour, 8 minutes and 55 seconds, with an average riding speed of 23.5 miles per hour. Johann Prinsloo, also riding with Group 2, finished second, less than 1 minute and 8 seconds behind Mr. Melen. Jamie Hughes, again with Group 2, finished in third place.

A handicap race involves novice and slower riders getting a head start on top riders. The slowest group starts first, the second slowest group starts a few minutes behind, and so on. The time interval of 6 minutes between the different groups was determined by Mr. Merren. The rider who crossed the finish line first won the race.

Clocking in the times, Joanne Caputo thanked the riders who came out to participate. “It was my first handicap race and I had a great time – it was fun, interesting, and exciting – and you all gave me lots of work to do which truly made it worth my while to come out. I appreciate it,” said Ms. Caputo.

U.S. cyclist Michael Testori said he had been looking forward to the race despite the hot sun.

He said he visits Cayman on an annual basis and had met quite a few of the Cayman cyclists, and had grown to love and appreciate the island.

“With the price drop in airline tickets, I was able to convince five of my friends to come down and participate in the race and have a little vacation at the same time,” Mr. Testori said.

Local rider Noland Stewart, who watched the event, said he found riding a very exciting sport.

“It’s very challenging at times but a lot depends on the level you want to exist at.… I normally try to excel so I try to go for the competition aspect of the ride, it brings a lot of things to you, such as focus, good stability … but also what it does is keeps you trim,” said Mr. Stewart.

He said riding on Cayman’s flat terrain is quite a different experience than riding in parts of the United States.

“This 27-mile ride on a flat is pretty easy … when you do 27 miles on a hill, it’s pretty different and you have to put in 110 percent most of the time just simply because of the difference in terrain.”

Mr. Stewart said it’s always exciting to travel and to represent his country, meet new people, gain knowledge and broaden his exposure when it comes to cycling.

“In all, I find it to be a very challenging sport, it’s very motivating to those who want to do more than just go out and ride 10 miles per hour, here we are riding at an average of 22 to 24 miles per hour, which is a little more challenging than a recreational ride,” he said.

Cycling Association history

The cycling association was formed in 1982 by Robert Nunes, better known by cyclists as “Bobby,” an attorney with over 20 years of experience in the national sports administration, including cycling in Jamaica. He was also the founder of the Jamaican Cycling Federation back in 1968. He built up the association with individuals such William McTaggart, John Flemming and former Cabinet Minister Linford Pierson.

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