LOGISTICALLY, it’s going to be tough for the TT Cycling Federation (TTCF) to select a national team for the October 20-24 Track Cycling World Championships in Roubaix, France.
When the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced its qualification quota for participating nations on Tuesday, TT qualified for a record-breaking eight events – men’s sprint, keirin, team sprint, omnium, elimination, scratch race, 1km time trial and team pursuit.
This is the first time in local cycling history that TT has qualified for so many events at this competition. It’s also a first for TT to compete in an endurance event at Worlds.
But the financial burden of sending at least ten riders and a minimum of three team staff to Europe in the middle of a pandemic is expected to pose a challenge for TTCF officials.
It’s going to be expensive. With connecting flights, overweight equipment (bikes), PCR tests and the possibility of quarantine, among a plethora of other overheads, the cycling federation is expected to be faced with travel and financial challenges.
At the International Cycling Union (UCI) Nations Cup in Cali, Colombia, earlier this month, Olympian Nicholas Paul and Akil Campbell practically confirmed their places on the national Worlds team after they won four gold medals.
Paul won the men’s sprint, keirin and kilometre time trial events and Campbell captured gold in the elimination race. The Nations Cup was used as a qualifier event for World Championships.
However, to fill the other spaces for team sprint and team pursuit is where the additional costs come in. Both events require three riders each, particularly sprinters.
TTCF racing secretary Desmond Roberts expressed pleasure at the nation’s qualification achievement. He is, however; a bit perturbed by the financial challenges ahead, but does not want to deny a cyclist an opportunity to compete at the highest level.
“We still have to put things in place to select the team sprint and the team pursuit. The problem will be funding to get this contingent to France.
“Besides airfare, there’s overweight for equipment, the management team with an endurance coach and a sprint coach. This is something we have to look at. Gone are the days of sending one coach, one manager and a mechanic only,” he said.
Additionally, only fully vaccinated cyclists will be selected for national teams. With most countries accepting vaccinated arrivals but mandatory quarantine for those without, the federation continues to encourage all cyclists to be vaccinated.
Roberts said it is hoping to have the entire local cycling fraternity fully vaccinated by next year.
He also called on corporate TT to bear witness to the continuous rise of the national cyclists on the international stage. Their performances over the past year, he said, called for real investment and financial assistance to help propel them further.
At the Tokyo Games, Paul placed a credible sixth in the men’s sprint event and 12th in the keirin. Kwesi Browne placed ninth in the latter.
The Caribbean’s first ever female road cyclist, Teniel Campbell, was unable to compete the gruelling course in Japan. Campbell, however, continues to show competitive growth, having secured her maiden stage victory during stage six of the Tour de l’Ardeche with Spain-based women’s pro team Team Bike Exchange.
Before the Summer Olympics in June, TT bagged four Pan American Elite Track Cycling Championship medals.
Akil Campbell won gold in the men’s scratch race, and two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip earned men’s keirin silver and also teamed up with Keron Bramble and Zion Pulido to bag another silver in the men’s team sprint.
TT’s lone female participant, pro cyclist Alexi Costa, notched up a bronze-medal finish in the women’s scratch race.
These performances were all backed up by Paul and Campbell’s dominant displays at the Nations Cup.
Roberts said, “We’re hoping corporate TT comes forward, because the first thing they say is that they’re not getting any mileage out of cycling as compared to T20 cricket and football.
“We need to support young men and women who are really training and bringing back medals for the country. Pandemic or not, the cyclists need financial help. We have to sit down and plan if it’s feasible to send riders for all the events. Budget-wise, it’s very challenging."
Roberts wants the cyclists to keep the momentum going but said they can only do so if funds are being pumped into their development.
“We want to ensure that cyclists look forward and are able to go out and represent the country. It’s difficult for any athlete to know they have been training so hard and so long to then hear they cannot go to a major competition for one reason or the other.”