Mon | Dec 9, 2019

J’can cyclists ‘soldiering’ on at Caribbean Road Cycling Champs

Published:Saturday | November 2, 2019 | 12:15 AMRachid Parchment/Assistant Sports Editor

HAVANA, Cuba:

National road cycling champion Russell Small says he is ‘soldiering through’ less-than- satisfactory conditions as he gets ready for the Caribbean Cycling Confederation’s (CCC) Road Cycling Championships here today.

Jamaica’s eight-man delegation arrived here at around 1:30 a.m. yesterday after their flight connected in Panama, but they have since been met with poor conditions at their hotel.

The CCC, funded by the sport’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), made accommodations for all competing cyclists from across the region at the state-owned Hotel Comodoro, which will also host its General Assembly, where a president and executive board will be elected tonight. However, the hotel does not meet the expectations of the four-star standard it advertises.

Upon arrival, The Gleaner noticed the stench at the hotel’s main entrance. The hotel itself has three main blocks, and some of the villas are without running water. Sanitation is also an issue at the hotel, with mosquitoes and house flies seen about the premises, even in the restaurant where meals which are a part of the all-inclusive package are served buffet-style for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The main block of the hotel is largely closed for maintenance, but the Jamaican team was placed there because logistical errors with the booking meant this was the only accommodation available for them.

The Gleaner sought CCC President Trevor Bailey for a comment on the conditions but was told at the time of inquiry that he was not yet in the country.

Small has not yet been able to contact his wife and three-year-old daughter waiting back in Green Island, Hanover, for word of his safe arrival, but says he is remaining upbeat despite the issues.

“The Internet is a challenge actually,” Small said. “I put some data plan on, but it’s not working, and I don’t know what happened. However, as soon as it starts working, I’ll try to send a message back home. I’d also like my employers and colleagues to know I’m here safely.

“We’re soldiers, so we don’t look at the conditions,” he added. “We’re here and that’s all that matters. We’re going to do our best.”

But Small says getting here was no issue and the team was well treated on arrival.

“It wasn’t bad getting here, actually,” he said. “We didn’t have any delayed flights and we didn’t have problems getting our bikes. When we got to Cuba we were treated like diplomats. There was a representative who received us, and we went through customs smoothly.”

This is Small’s second time competing regionally, having previously represented Jamaica at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico in November 2014.

Aiming for the top

This was just eight months after taking up the sport. He said that despite lacking the experience of his regional counterparts, he is still aiming to give a strong showing on the road today.

“There’s not much racing in Jamaica, actually, so I can’t compare myself with them in terms of standards,” he said.

“I don’t know where they are, but all I know is that I am in good shape.”

Jamaica’s team consists of Small, Mordecai Baines, and Mark Williams, competing in the Elite event; Brandon Baker, Demar Golding, and Andrew Ramsay competing in the Under 23 event.

It is coached by Carlton Simmonds, who has had only five weeks to prepare the team. Omar Fennell, from the Central Cycling Club in Manchester and a member of the Jamaica Cycling Federation, is also here to represent the body on behalf of President Joylene Griffiths, who was unable to make the trip for personal reasons.