Young Cayman cyclist set for international racing debut

Josh Weaver is no stranger to being the youngest rider in a race. At 16 years old, he has been cycling alongside his father Chris in local races for the last five years, and he will represent Cayman internationally for the first time this weekend in the Junior Caribbean Cycling Championships in Bermuda.

Josh, who will turn 17 in November, will be competing in the 17/18 age group at the cycling championships, and he will be the only representative for Cayman this year. Weaver will compete in a 10-mile time trial on Saturday and then again in a 40-mile road race on Sunday.

“The expectation in Bermuda is just to have fun and enjoy it, and to win a medal if the opportunity arises,” he said. “I’ve got the same chance as anybody. I think I’ll probably do slightly better in the road race than I will in the time trial. I have speed, but maybe my stamina is more enhanced.”

Weaver has spent years rounding into form, and he said it’s a “true honor” to represent Cayman for the first time. The youngster said he usually cycles about five times a week and that he averages 20 or 25 miles a day, and on Sundays, he usually goes for a 55-mile jaunt to enhance his endurance.

His father Chris has nurtured his love of cycling from an early age, and he has watched him graduate from a $300 starter bike all the way to the $1000 carbon-fiber model he will use this weekend.

The Weavers began racing together as early as 2013, and Mr. Weaver has kept a collection of press clippings showing his precocious son competing against racers way above his age.

“I’ve never been good at scrapbooking or anything like that, but I made an exception in this case because I could see he was passionate about it at a young age,” said Mr. Weaver. “And people were questioning, ‘What are you doing with a 10-year-old boy on the road, cycling in races? Obviously, you’ve got no chance to win.’ But it was to participate and it was to show him competition.”

Josh and his father Chris have been entering in local races for years.

Now, on the eve of his first international race, Josh is taking everything in stride. He said that Bermuda is very hilly, but he’s trained on the road and in spin class for the topography. He is ready to withstand the physical and mental adversity it will take to keep up with the competition.

“Aside from cycling and other sporting events, my true passion is nature,” Josh said. “I want to be a zoologist when I grow up. I love animals. Usually, on a very long ride, I focus my mind on getting to the finish line and enjoying the scenery. It’s like a sightseeing tour, even though we’re going quite fast.”

The Weavers hope that in the future, Cayman will be able to field a cycling team to compete in races like the Caribbean Junior Cycling Championships. Two accomplished riders – brothers Nathaniel and Matthew Forbes – will be unavailable for this race, but hope to be a part of the mix going forward.

Craig Merren, a three-time Olympian and the president of the Cayman Islands Cycling Association, said that it’s very important for young cyclists to have structure as they mature in the sport. Weaver and the Forbes brothers, he said, will need dedicated coaching and training to progress to elite levels.

“Road cycling is difficult,” said Mr. Merren. “It’s very rare for Josh to love road cycling.

“We don’t have a velodrome. We don’t have a BMX track. We don’t have a mountain bike [course] or anything like that. We need those programs to attract youngsters in order to have the facilities to do that. That takes money. That takes time, and it takes a dedicated group of people.”

Josh uses interval training on a stationary bike to help simulate climbing, and Mr. Weaver said it’s an effective technique because the rider can push past their maximum effort without endangering themselves. Then, they can recover for 15 seconds just like they would in a race.

The younger Weaver has grown to love track and field and triathlons in addition to cycling, and he said that endurance sports allow the competitor to basically eat whatever they want within reason. He rides his bike to school most days, and he said he’d love to cycle pretty much everywhere if he could.

That is music to his Dad’s ears. Mr. Weaver has always loved cycling, but he said he’s never really excelled at it. Now, he gets to watch his son come into his own in a passion that they share.

“I took him to football. I took him to rugby,” said Mr. Weaver. “I took him cycling, which also happens to be my sport, and it’s something we’ve grown to love. We’d have a couple of hours together on a Sunday. Now, the only thing is he’s fast enough to get away. He doesn’t have to answer all my questions.”