THE 2019 Caribbean Mountain Bike (MTB) Championships, at Constanza Hills, in Dominican Republic saw TT’s largest ever contingent return home with two silvers and one bronze medal.
The eight-member squad – Vidal Ramlagan (Elite Men), Wendy-Ann Thomas (Elite Women), Micah Agustine (Junior Men), Mickel Lopez (Juvenile Men), Colin De Freitas (Masters 40+), Walter Paul (Masters 50+), Shelly-Ann Augustine (chaperone) and Carl Williams (coach) – arrived on October 3 and created history for TT by capturing its largest medal tally over the next two days.
On day one, Lopez battled through muddy slopes, at an altitude of over 4,000 feet, to produce a credible bronze medal finish. He trailed eventual winner, Roneivi Marte Cespedes (Dominican Republic) and Andre Kock (Aruba ) respectively.
De Freitas then added more silverware to TT’s haul by holding on to a runner-up finish. Bagging gold was Eric Gonzalez of the host nation. Additionally, Walter Paul settled for seventh in the Men’s Masters 50+.
In day-two action, medal favourite Augustine was unable to finish his race after being involved in a crash. Thomas, however, would show grit and conquer the rugged terrain in her women’s event to grab silver. Esmerin Rodriguez Severino (Dominican Republic) topped the field while her compatriot, Canela Madeline, rounded off the top three.
Ramlagan, however, was unable to bolster TT’s medal tally as he mustered up a seventh place finish in the men’s elite.
Since Peter Sellier’s golden performance at the regional MTB tourney in 2015, this has been TT’s second time medalling at the prestige event. However, the team was forced to cover their own costs having only been notified of this event one month prior.
Upon arrival in Dominican Republic, the athletes were allowed to ride through the course to familiarise themselves. However, speaking to De Freitas yesterday, he admitted that the courses in TT are significantly less challenging than what is being contested on the regional stage. He also called on the relevant authorities to place more emphasis on mountain biking locally.
“There were a lot of challenging muddy down hills and extremely steep layered climbs. The altitude also posed an obstacle for our riders,” he said. “I think more attention and energy and respect should be given to mountain biking. It’s a very big sport worldwide and TT is still getting warmed up to it. As a UCI event, mountain biking is very high on the agenda in terms of their events and well respected worldwide.”
De Freitas also sent an open request to corporate TT and the public to assist in the recouping of funds spent towards national representation.
“Flight tickets alone were $7,000 per athlete. We hope that some agency can assist in reimbursing some of our total cost. We received one month’s notice on the event and the Ministry of Sport requires two months notice for a grant application. Any assistance would be welcomed,” he concluded.