Published On: Thu, Sep 22nd, 2016

Mountain biking takes center stage on Sunday

sp-bkpgeLeft to right is Sellier, Chin and Govia while they were getting acquainted with the course in Bellevue yesterday afternoon – Photo by Milton Pieters.

GREAT BAY- When the 2nd annual Caribbean Mountain Bike Championships peddles off on Sunday in Bellevue, the Friendly Island will have a total of six participants among the field of 41 riders from eight countries.

Peter Sellier, the defending Caribbean champion along with his two male team mates Ryan Chin and Christopher Govia from Trinidad & Tobago were among the first to arrive on the island early yesterday. The female rider on the team Candace Chin Fatt arrived on a later flight.

After a conducted tour of the course, all three riders commented briefly on the terrain. “The course is really good, it has some very long sustained climbs that will allow a rider to into the zone and settle into my own pace. I think that this course is suited to me,” Sellier said.

This is a great course with nice climbs and nice descents, to me it’s a fun course that will be challenging on race day,” Chin said. However according to Chin, in the race that was held in Puerto Rico, it was very hot and he did not do too well. But he would like to improve his performances this time.

Govia, described the course as great with a series of technical climbs and descents. “It is going to be very challenging and I am looking forward to it,” he noted.

The St. Maarten Cycling Federation which has as its President Edsel Romney and Secretary Suzy Piscione were able to win the bid to have the international event staged here.

The championships which was first held in Puerto Rico is a UCI sanctioned event “It’s a big deal for St Maarten due to the fact that the island was granted the opportunity to host the event in front of Puerto, Aruba and the Dominican Republic,” Piscione said.

According to Piscione, officials came here from Puerto Rico to see the track and after a tour, they said what we have here is a world class mountain bike trail here.

However, all UCI events are run in accordance with international standards and that starts with eligilibility of riders. “All riders must be the holders of a passport or ID card of the country they are representing. They also must have proof that they have been residing in the respective countries for the past five years’ Piscione added.

While Mountain Biking is not as popular as road biking here, the four riders from the French side of the island along with the two representing the Dutch side are not seeded riders are not ranked by the UCI.

However, because they are more familiar with the six km trail, they are expected to do well. Of the 41 riders, 17 will be competing in the elite class for men, there will also be seven female elite riders, 10 male junior riders and three female junior riders.

Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe both came with eight riders, 7 from Martinique, Trinidad & Tobago, the defending champions will have four riders on the line, 4 from Aruba, 2 from Guyana and one from Bermuda.

The French side of the island will be represented by Dean Hodge Jr, Otis Paines, Adelio Brooks and Ridge Bannis and the Dutch side will be represented by Joost Huele and Annelies Starreveld.

We are hoping that Hodge Jr has the advantage because he is more familiar with the trail which is more technical than those on the other islands. It’s interested to see what those visiting riders will do here.”

The young riders from the St Maarten Mountain Biking Club will also get an opportunity to be active during the races. They will be acting as guides for spectators that would want to position themselves at some of the more technical spots along the course.

I think it’s going to be some very nice racing, our track can be technical but I am sure for those experienced riders, it’s going to be fast and furious.” Piscione noted.

Because of the design of the course which was done by Frederic Quetat, overtaking will only be possible in some areas. The elite male riders will have to cover the loop five times, the elite females four times while the junior male and female riders will cover three and two laps respectively.

The race which is scheduled to start at 9.00pm and the other categories will peddle off in three minute increments. Ironically, because the local riders are not ranked, they will have to start at the back of the pack, however all riders will be equipped with a chip that will allow the race officials to keep an accurate record on their individual performances.

In cases of technical emergencies, riders will only be allowed to repair bikes in a specified zone and the same applies for feeding. This event will also help to put St Maarten on the map while boosting the tourism market.

We were told by the Federation of Caribbean Cycling Federation that if we do well now, we will stand a chance in hosting one of the legs in the Americas Cup in 2017, and that is a part of a five race circuit.

What we are looking at here is an economic niche that has not been explored. I know that baseball does it and cricket does it. Mountain biking now has a chance to appeal to that tourism market, we are inviting spectators to come out and witness some exciting races.” She said in her conclusion.