Due to the significant damage caused by recent hurricanes in the Caribbean region, a number of regional cyclists have been forced to pull out of the forthcoming Tobago International Cycling Classic scheduled to pedal off from September 27 to October 1.
And Jeff Charles, the main organiser of the Classic, also lamented the fact that the event, slated from September 27 to October 1, will have to operate on a reduced budget.
However, he is expecting that the UCI-sanctioned event, dubbed “Tour of Tobago”, will be the one of the more successful to be staged on the sister isle.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Charles noted, “The more hurricanes come in this region is the more cyclists I’m losing.”
Charles said that, within the last week, he has lost riders from St Martin, Guadeloupe, Miami and Dominican Republic.
“These people are devastated,” said Charles. “I’m disappointed that they can’t come.”
He continued, “Apart from that, we still have about 12 international teams, which is good. I was just hoping for a record number this year. I don’t know what (Hurricane) Maria will do now, that’s a different story.”
Charles said, “Other than that, we have everything going full speed ahead.”
Last year’s race was won by James Piccoli of Canada, but there is no confirmation if he will return to defend his crown this year. But former champ and hometown hero Emile Abraham is expected to compete in next week’s event.
As far as sponsorship is concerned, Charles admitted, “The Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Tourism, for the first time in about seven or eight years (will not assist). They (had) approved sponsorship but they have no money to give.”
As a result, the highlight package of the 2017 race will not be aired on the cable network ESPN.
“This is our smallest budget in the last 10 years,” Charles said.
The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) are the Gold Sponsors, while other monetary assistance will be provided by Dasani, Powerade, Holiday Snacks, Kiss Baking, Econo Car Rentals, British Airways, Caribbean Airlines, Bmobile, Crown Point Beach Hotel Limited and Coca Cola.
With regards to the support services for the five-day long Classic, Charles noted, “We’ll have the TRHA (Tobago Regional Health Authority) supporting us, and the Red Cross, as far as the ambulances and the medical services.
“We have the full support of TEMA (Tobago Emergency Management Agency) and the police, and REACT,” he added. “We have the races covered. We have the support of the Tobago Division of Infrastructure to ensure all the roads are safe and secure. We have all the logistics in place.
“It’s going to be a very big race this year. It’s going to be exciting. We have some top teams (from) Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Canada, USA, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. The event will be better than last year. We can guarantee that,” Charles ended.