PERFECTION SERVICES Ltd (PSL) Cycling Club manager Desmond Roberts has come in for high praise from Trinidad and Tobago’s first Olympic-bound female road cyclist Teniel Campbell.
In an interview with lessonsinbadassery.com, Campbell described Roberts’ generosity and belief in her, in 2017, as key factors in establishing her career.
After winning the 2014 Junior Caribbean Road Cycling Championships in Suriname, Campbell was overlooked by the TT Cycling Federation (TTCF) for the 2017 Caribbean Road Championships team.
However, Roberts believed in his athlete and chose to personally fund Campbell’s trip to Martinique. There, she went on to capture double gold in the women’s road race and individual time trial, thereby asserting herself as one of the region’s most promising female endurance riders.
The 23-year-old cyclist said her performance at the Caribbean Championships served as a launching pad to train at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland.
“I was told that the TTCF believed I was not worth it, it was wasted funds and that I was not even capable of medalling. ‘It’s a hilly circuit and Teniel Campbell cannot climb, what’s the point of sending her?’ – that was, apparently, the comment of (an official). Not that it bothered me, people are entitled to their own opinions,” she said.
After last-minute assistance from Roberts, Campbell packed her bikes, booked airline tickets, and rushed home to pack, return to the airport to catch her flight, race and win the time trial the following day.
“I won the time trial by a big margin and then won the road race by approximately three bike lengths. That was followed by a golden ticket two months after to train at the UCI headquarters in Switzerland,” Campbell added.
Arriving in Aigle, Campbell went from an average 20 degrees C temperature to -14. Having previously conquered the Caribbean, she acknowledged there were several new elements and learning curves she had to endure on arriving in Europe.
“Accepting that I’m no longer the best. I must try, fail, then learn from my mistakes. Forcing myself out of my comfort zone when it came to climbing mountains, learning a new system and tolerating cold weather. Understanding the pressure of leadership and taking responsibility of not hitting team goals.”
Three years later, she has three Pro stage wins to her name, Pan American Under-23 Championship gold medals and a contract with Team BikeExchange.
Additionally, in 2019, she also became TT’s first ever female pro cyclist when she was signed by Italian-based women’s pro cycling club Valcar Travel and Service. After one season, although hampered by covid19, Campbell produced a mixture of impressive and challenging performances.
In November 2020, she joined Mitchelton-Scott and advanced to the Women’s World Tour level. She signed a two-year contract which was expected to begin this month.
She told lessonsfrombadassery.com, “I believe I am where I need to be at the moment. I do not force anything. I take things in (my) stride regardless of the amount of unnecessary pressure I apply to myself at times. I work extremely hard and always aim to be a student of my craft.
“With determination, enthusiasm and consistency everything falls into place at the right timing. I can control my destiny, not my fate.”
She lauded national team mechanic Elisha Greene and Ashton Williams for playing pivotal roles in her development as a young cyclist.
Campbell drew motivation from her mother Euphemia Huggins and close family members. She admired her brother, national cyclist Akil Campbell, and wanted to achieve what he did on the local circuit.
“I wanted to be like him. His grit and tenacity. I would love to see him living his European dream out here with me. I know it’s his desire and seeing me out here gives him and so many others a little bit more hope and belief that it’s possible. I’m just a bit nervous as to how long they will hold onto it! There isn’t a pathway for them back at home,” she said.
Campbell concluded, “The mind is the (nucleus) of the body. It controls everything. Nothing is achieved in your comfort zone. Your mental capacity goes hand in hand with your physical ability. If you want to see self-improvement you must push past your limits to constantly keep unlocking different levels of yourself.
“It’s like a story on a video game. The first couple of phases are usually easy; then you reach levels where you must constantly repeat before advancing. If you are not mentally strong (enough) to take the hits, look at things from a different angle and keep standing without the loss of enthusiasm, you’re most likely going to remain at that level.”
Campbell won the 2019 and 2020 TT Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year awards.