MULTIPLE NATIONAL road cycling champion, Emile Abraham, caps off his distinguished 30-year career when he suits up in the red, white and black for one last hurrah at the Caribbean Road Cycling Championships in Barbados later this month.
The 41-year-old veteran endurance rider made public his decision to retire from all major international competition at the closing ceremony of the 29th Tobago International Cycling Classic (TICC) on Sunday.
Abraham is rated as Trinidad and Tobago’s most accomplished road cyclist having won over 30 National titles (senior and junior), UCI ‘B’ World Championships bronze (2003), Pan American silver (2007/ Road Race), TT Male Athlete of the Year (2007), Central American and Caribbean (CAC) silver (2010), Caribbean Road Cycling Championships silver (2013 and 2014), produced numerous top-three finishes at countless global Tour races and was ranked 33rd in the world in the Points Race among a lengthy list of other competitive accolades.
Speaking exclusively to Newsday prior to his apt announcement on Sunday, the Tobago bred cyclist opted to tell all on his astounding career, delving into the many highs and lows which ultimately built him into the athlete he is today. Looking back, Abraham is pleased but will ever so often reminisce and sometimes question decisions made and opportunities he was unable to capitalise on and benefit from.
Here is Part One of this interview....
On his retirement, the former Lowlands homeboy explained, “definitely a bitter-sweet feeling for me. In any athlete’s life, there is always a point where you just got to give it up and pass it on. Within recent years it’s been difficult for training and being able to compete against someone half my age.
The recovery process, when you hit 40, it’s just a different ball game and it’s like hitting a wall. I had a decent season but always had it in my head that I would retire soon, and have been saying that to myself for the past six years.” Prior to his representation of American-based road team, Texas RoadHouse, at the 2015 TICC, Abraham’s wife, Rachael, was forced to undergo a surprise appendictis surgery upon their arrival in the sister-isle. This, among several other long-time indicators, was the final splinter to deflate Abraham’s ancient road tyres.
“It was stressful with my wife going through surgery,” he added.
“It was also clearly not one of my best Tours and I was just suffering so much. I chose to give it up at least while I’m still a bit on top.
I’m on the way out and the younger guys are coming closer to me.
I’m going down and they’re coming up and I think, ‘why run myself to the ground?’ It just opened my eyes up to how much harder it is as a 41-year-old and I think I should just end it now while i still have a good name to myself and just look to the future.”
FINAL TICC PERFORMANCE
The 2013 Tour of Trinidad and Tobago winner also brought an end to his career at the tourney in which he began competing, the TICC. The Signal Hill Secondary graduate admitted that this year’s edition of the Classic was indeed a bit extra special, and with his career coming to a close, he opted to give it his all.
Hailing in high regard the likes race chairman and long-time mentor Jeffrey Charles, his father Toney, and other foundation members of Tobago-based club, Trinbago Wheelers (formerly Kariwak), Abraham ensured that he completed the challenging 120-kilometre Tour of Tobago circuit one last time.
“It’s all about the passion, and thats what I have, and still have,” he continued. “I wouldn’t finish today (Sunday) if I didn’t have passion. I went through serious pain and suffering today. Basically my race today, there were 100 riders starting the event, but none of them mattered to me. I was racing myself. This was my last Tour of Tobago and I wanted to make sure there was no DNF (did not finish) on the final result sheet. My goal today was to finish and not go out unfinished. I just wanted to complete and cap off my career at home.
“I just let the leaders ride away and I stayed within myself to make sure I could finish and you wouldn’t believe how many riders I pulled back in. I caught them, passed them, dropped them and went ahead and finished 17th overall. There must have like 40 guys ahead of me when I decided in Castara going towards Englishman Bay, to just back it off and ride my own race.”
The seasoned American criterium racer has also built a successful history of managing US road cycling club teams. He has held roles such as director of Rossetti Devo and Incycle-Predator Components, manager of Aerocat Cycling and current team leader at Texas RoadHouse p/b Stradalli.
Following his final major competitive display in just under two weeks, Abraham will continue working on the US circuit with an Under-25 team in an all-round effort towards building a professional competitive unit to take part in global tournaments.
Based in Atlanta, Goergia, the 2013 Tour of Quebec winner will now put more emphasis on youth development training and will soon launch a joint programme with an American univeristy, to help educate riders academically, while receiving cycling training.
“I have a lot of experience but I’m focussing on development training with the youth. I’m presently working on a contract with another junior (Under-25) team to possibly work with them next year with their development process.
And maybe within the next year or two, I’m going to come back out with my team again.
Hopefully, that new team that we’re working on, will be really big and the plan is basically to make it to the Tour de France.
“It’s going to be all development and a programme where youth will not only be taken into the team, trained, developed and go to races, but they are also going to be heading to school and getting an education. We have a joint venture with one of the universities in the US that the young riders will be able to do educational courses while they train. Once you’ve come through our programme, athletes will already have an afterlife (from sport). I just want to be the mentor that I didn’t have, to the youths of today. I don’t think there are programmes like this out there so I really want to get into it.”