THE EASTER Grand Prix will not be a part of the 2018 local cycling calendar, according to Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) president Robert Farrier.
Yesterday, the TTCF boss alluded to a previous report in which he stressed the 2018 edition was in doubt as the local governing body was owed $1 million from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.
The $1 million sum was supposed to assist in the TTCF’s hosting of the 2017 Pan Am Track Cycling Championships at the National Cycling Centre, Couva.
But local cycling legend Gene “Geronimo” Samuel, in a subsequent interview yesterday, laid the blame for the cancellation of the Easter Grand Prix squarely on the feet of the Farrier-led TTCF.
Farrier stated nobody or any group showed any desire to take up the challenge to stage the Grand Prix. However, local club Madonna Wheelers is planning a youth event, during the Easter weekend, at Irwin Park, Siparia.
According to Farrier, “It’s a big disappointment. The Easter Grand Prix is really the ‘local cycling Olympics’. The cyclists look forward to that, to be alongside international cyclists.”
Asked if the TTCF would be hosting any other events , Farrier replied, “We have decided that we will not be hosting any events until we clear all off our debts.”
He added, “We have not approached sponsors to pay off a debt. We have to look with different options.”
The Easter Grand Prix, which started in 1982, has regularly attracted cyclists, from the Caribbean, North America, Latin America and Europe, to test their mettle against the best from the twin-island republic.
Samuel was one of the household names during Grand Prix events of the 80s and 90s.
“Not having the Easter Grand Prix this year would be disappointing but, we are in hard times,” said Samuel. “For some of us (in the cycling fraternity) it is not surprising. We really haven’t gone out and marketed ourselves properly in the last several years.”
Referring to Farrier’s predecessor Rowena Williams, Samuel said, “The previous president used to get separate sponsors for the Easter Grand Prix whereas, in the last few years, we have been just trying to depend on the Sports Company which is wrong. The funds are just being drained in other areas. The only people that (are) suffering are the cyclists.”
The 57-year-old, who represented TT at the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, expressed surprise in Farrier’s claim that the Sports Ministry is still owing the federation. “Money is being spent,” Samuel insisted. “Not many people will be outspoken like myself. We are all waiting to see what is going (to) happen. It’s time that people are made accountable for (their) actions. It’s very sad.”
He continued, “People can say what they want, Rowena Williams was the best president we’ve ever had in the last 30 years. She is a hard worker, she is there for the sport. Everybody is looking to see what they can (gain) and I’m not happy with that at all.”
Farrier is worried about the lack of support, from both the Sports Ministry and the corporate sector, for cycling and, by extension, sport in TT.
“I cannot understand what is the logic of the stakeholders, by not being willing to get involved and partner with each other,” Farrier said. “It’s all of us who will benefit from this. Sport is a business and this is a big business opportunity.
“When you drive down the (Sir Solomon Hochoy) Highway and you look at the Cycling Velodrome, I would have (wanted) to put my product and brand it all over the Velodrome, so people can see from miles away. It’s a big opportunity for branding.”
Asked if he is hoping for a fairy godfather to step in and assist the TTCF, Farrier replied, “I hope some fairy godfather does come up and hold their end of the bargain. I hope the fairy godfather lives up to his promise.”