IT’S been almost five years since TT last fielded a junior female Team Sprint cycling squad.
At the 2016 Junior Pan American Track Cycling Championships, a seventh-place finish in the women’s Team Sprint by former national cyclists Jhordan St. George and Dominique Lovell was the last time TT was represented in this category.
One year prior, another female pair of ex-TT riders – Jodi Goodridge and Aziza Browne –pedalled to silver in the same event at the Caribbean Track Cycling Championships.
Earlier in 2015, former national females Kollyn St. George and Keiana Lester were crowned champions of the Junior Pan American women’s Team Sprint by setting a new meet and national record in the process.
Since then, only road cyclists Teniel Campbell and Alexi Costa have maintained consistency on the competitive circuit. Campbell and Costa also became the first two TT female riders to secure pro contracts in 2020.
To date, however, Goodridge, Lester, both St George sisters, Browne, Lovell and Denese Francis have all fallen off the circuit owing to varying reasons.
Their unexpected exit from the sport seemed to have pushed the local fraternity back a couple of years regarding women’s development.
However, with the recent selection of Phoebe Sandy, Makayla Hernandez (both of Madonna Wheelers) and Sylese Christian (PSL) to the TT women’s team sprint squad for the May 31 to June 6 Junior Pan Am Track Championships, in Mexico, a possible resurgence of a new breed of elite female riders seems to be in the construct.
“Covid19 really dampened the 2020 season so we had no real activity happening. Teams were unable to train properly far less travel abroad for competition. This year, fingers crossed, that this event will come off as it’s being held in Mexico,” said TT Cycling Federation (TTCF) president Rowena Williams.
Before her appointment, in February, to run the affairs of local cycling for another four years, Williams vouched to revive women and girls in cycling. According to her, the trio’s selection to represent TT at the upcoming Pan Ams is a step in the right direction towards returning TT’s females to top-flight competition.
With the recent International Cycling Union (UCI) rule change, which now allows three (previously two) riders to be selected for the women’s Team Sprint, the TTCF went on to field a team of youngsters they believe can use this experience to improve their craft.
Both Sandy and Hernandez ride domestically while Christian is based in the US.
“We had a lull period (2016 to present) of females going into these Team Sprint events; coming from the era of Denese Francis, Jodi Goodridge, Keiana Lester, Aziza Brown and Kollyn St George.
“We really want to see our females grow and encourage more women to go further in the sport. We’re looking forward to getting them exposed to that type of competition.
“It only augurs well for when they get out there and get that much needed experience. This is new for all three of these females,” Williams added.
The TTCF is currently preparing a six-member team of Sandy, Hernandez, Christian and young males Ryan D’Abreau, Devante Laurence and Raul Garcia for the end of May meet.
Similarly, Williams said the federation is also preparing the young men for the Team Sprint event.
“The Team Sprint is an area that we’re strong in from the senior level. We want to encourage the juniors to follow suit. We’ve always had our junior and senior team sprint teams being very competitive and we’re looking forward to that going forward.
“We’re preparing the team right now and they’re training at the National Cycling Centre. I must acknowledge the local club coaches who have been working alongside these cyclists to prepare them and get them ready for meets like these,” said Williams.
The Junior Pan Am team will be managed/chaperoned by Williams, coach Gregory Dandrade and mechanic Elisha Greene.
Additionally, D’Abreau was the only junior to secure qualification for the Junior World Track Cycling Championships which rides off in Egypt in September.
“Identifying talent, and doing more to support those efforts, are what we (TTCF) remain committed to doing,” concluded Williams.