My foremost sports passion is cycling so the just-concluded XX11 edition of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England afforded me the elation of viewing the intense rivalries in the velodrome and at the road races as an online spectator.
I enthusiastically celebrated the performance and success of Caribbean cyclists as if each of them was flying the Golden Arrowhead. I was particularly enthralled by the gold medal performance of Team TTO cyclist, Nicholas Paul in the men’s keirin. The key element in his spectacular victory was his high performance training for such a world class event.
Trinidad and Tobago Newsday reported that “over the past four years Paul has been training at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cycling Center (WCC) in Switzerland under their specialist program…” Paul also won silver in the sprint and bronze in the time trial in men’s cycling at these Games. Another outstanding Team TTO performer was Teniel Campbell, the 24-year-old BikeExchange-Jayco professional, who finished 6th in the Commonwealth Games women’s road race.
Meanwhile, taking a candid position on the selection of our Christopher Griffith for the world class Commonwealth Games men’s road race, it has to be said that this became a hot topic among cycling aficionados and sponsors locally, and also included dissenting remarks from a prominent member of the Guyana Cycling Association of North America (GCANA), who is an Olympian.
According to observers, the Guyana Cycling Federation (GCF) ignored the 2nd to 6th place podium finishers in this year’s gruelling GCF’s Independence 165-miles three-stage road race, over two days. Trinidad national champion and Pan Am Games gold medalist Akil Campbell took the top podium spot here, followed by his Team Foundation partner, Guyanese Jamual John. In addition, Guyana also has a few cyclists who have been earning podium placings riding for pro-teams in the USA.
Really, the question is what criteria did the GCF use in selecting a representative for the men’s road race, which would be a supreme test of athletic endurance, over almost 100 miles? At the start line in Warwick were a number of major names in pro-teams, including pre-race favorite, Manx sprinter Mark Cavendish, as well as former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, among other cycling celebrities.
Guyana’s Griffith showed admirable pluck in remounting his cycle after a spill at one of the treacherous corners in the drama-filled road time trial. Meantime, Thomas finished third with a bloodied knee after an early crash. It was heart-warming to see Griffith in his skinsuit sporting our vibrant national colours. Although Griffith is among the DNF riders, I would advise him not to wrap his self-worth in his performance at the Games, since it’s clear that he was given “basket to fetch water”. I salute him for being undaunted by the challenge.
Going forward, the GCF would recognize that Guyana is uniquely poised to achieve significant success in cycling at the regional and international level. Our cyclists would benefit immensely from a visionary plan. They need the planned refinement of skills and tactics that can put them regularly on the podium.
For a bright future for cycling in Guyana, and the sustainable development of our cyclists, the Federation is urged to unveil and implement that plan sooner rather than later.