So many times, Josh Weaver has hit the pedals for himself and for his family.
This time, he was pedaling for his country.
Josh, who competed for Cayman in the Caribbean Junior Cycling Championships last weekend, returned from Bermuda on Monday and felt immeasurably richer for the experience.
“It was a true honor to represent Cayman,” he said. “I’ve got an even bigger appreciation for the sport than before. I’ve always loved cycling. It’s my favorite sport. But I realized that even though it’s a fun sport, it’s actually quite a tough sport. It’s all fun in the end, but you’ve got to dedicate yourself to it.”
Cayman’s lone representative in Bermuda, Josh finished the 10-mile time trial in 35:31.7, and he was lapped in the 40-mile road race and pulled from competition with four laps to go. But he came home from Bermuda excited about testing himself against the best Caribbean competitors in his age group.
“I was up against these really big, fast, experienced guys,” said 16-year-old Josh, who was
competing in the 16-18 age group of the championships. “Unfortunately, since I had been lapped, I was pulled from the race. But then I realized, ‘You know what? I was just there for the experience.
“Nobody was expecting me to medal or anything. I wasn’t expecting to medal.”
Bermuda, the host of the championships, netted the race winner and three of the top six finishers, and Josh said that they established themselves very early in the race as favorites.
The road race began with a very steep downhill portion, and the Bermuda riders were able to use their familiarity with the course and their teammates to pull ahead. Josh said that he worked as hard as he could to catch up, but he was affected by racing up and down major hills for the first time in his life.
“We’d be going down the hill at mind-boggling speeds,” he said of the experience. “I have to admit, I was just freaked out slightly. Someone is going to crash. And actually, there were one or two accidents that morning unfortunately because people were rushing around and the roads were slippery.”
There was also an incline of more than 40 yards early in the race, a slope that Josh has rarely seen in his preparatory races here in Cayman. He rode the course the day before the time trial with his father and coach Mitchell Smith, but it was just a different animal to ride it in competition.
“Going up one hill was particularly difficult,” he said of the race’s main climbing portion. “The first one or two times, it was OK. But the third time, I was really struggling to get up that hill at speed.”
His father, Chris Weaver, said they were surprised to learn that Josh was the first junior to represent Cayman internationally in cycling since 1990. The elder Weaver said that Smith and Craig Merren, both former Olympians, had helped prepare them to compete on the international level.
But now with the junior championships under their belt, the Weavers are even more
determined to form a Cayman team that can compete in the future and inspire future generations.
“The next thing is to build a team. That’s what we don’t have right now,” said Chris Weaver of the next natural step. “To represent at these events, it shows the commitment of your country to sports and in particular the youth. That’s the future. We really want to encourage the youth to start cycling.”
Josh is just ready to start Year 11 in school, and he hopes to attend college in England or Ireland in the future. But cycling will still be an intrinsic part of his life. He hopes to take long rides on Sundays, and he’s poised to enter any race on the horizon that will help him in the future.
Now, he’s a licensed rider, and he can focus on improving his times. Josh said that he hopes to go to somewhere like the Dominican Republic to practice riding in other hilly environments. But for now, he’s ready to go back to school and tell his classmates what it was like to represent Cayman.
“I’ll just tell my fellow students it was an amazing experience,” he said. “Cycling is a fantastic sport. And we also want to inspire others to get out there on the road and experience it for themselves.”