Friday, March 1, 2024

ON THE BALL: Beating Matthews an uphill task


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In this week’s edition of On The Ball, NATION sports writer Justin Marville reviews the Barbados Cycling Union’s National Road Race Championships.

I’M CONSTANTLY CALLED a Darren Matthews man, and it’s a good thing too.

If you’re going to falsely identify me with someone at least let that man be a winner.

And boy was he ever a winner this weekend, with no rider coming within nine minutes of the 24-year-old Matthews by the end – and it probably wasn’t even that close.

You won’t ever confuse me for a cycling expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d say the race was effectively over by just the fourth lap when he and Jason Wilson opened up a two minute-gap on their nearest rivals.

That’s probably being kind too, because from the time no one decided to go with the Team Swift duo on the third climb up Stewart Hill then the event was probably over in all earnest.

Sure, you’ll be able to make up ground on the flats and descent, but that same energy used to haul back in Matthews would be needed to survive every subsequent attack made going up the very taxing Stewart Hill.

No matter how you look at it, there’s just no denying this was an utterly dominant performance, especially as it came against the best Barbados has to offer.

And there’s no better proof than the one you see first-hand.

• If you think Matthews was severe on the saddle then you should’ve seen him off it.

Not that I’m a gambling man or anything, but I’d hazard a bet dear Darren isn’t quite over his omission from last year’s team to the Caribbean Cycling Championships, especially after listening to his not so veiled post-race comments.

Matthews certainly didn’t pull any punches while saying “they can look at the results now and choose” and then returned to take another shot after reasoning he expected a lot more from “those other riders”.

And just in case he didn’t get his point across, the message was definitely delivered after stating triathlete Jason Wilson did well to compete with “supposedly the best cyclists in Barbados”.

Maybe the pent-up frustration serves Matthews well as a form of motivation, but I honestly feel the clear divide between his camp and the administration serves neither side well – or the sport of cycling.

Honestly, it’s time for both factions to bury the hatchet and make peace once and for all, because whether they believe it or not, they can both get even further together rather than apart.

• Speaking of Matthews’ competition, that sure was one curious decision by the men of Mecalfab not to go with their rival on that aforementioned break.

Especially when numbers were in their favour.

With at least six high-quality riders in their midst, at least one of those Heat Wave cyclists should’ve been allowed to go after Matthews, because even if that rider was sacrificed then there are still five others left to contend.

Of course it has to be said that Jesse Kelly and Jason Perryman were already off the pace at that time, but Joshua Kelly, Philip Clarke and Jamol Eastmond still remained in the peloton, and reports have it that Joshua was all too willing to take off behind Matthews.

If Joshua didn’t pick up an untimely flat then maybe the race goes differently, yet it’s just too big a risk to let a calibre rider (who’s happens to be a top climber) go off to the front by himself considering there were so many climbs of Stewart Hill remaining.

• As we’re on the topic of Stewart Hill, that is definitely a picturesque circuit if I ever did see one, but it’s not picture perfect for team Barbados in regional competition.

Just in case you missed it, most of the country’s top riders struggled to cope with the lengthy St Philip climb while Matthews pushed the tempo up the gruelling pull.

And you can believe countries such as Martinique, Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico – who all have better climbers than Matthews – will be chomping at the bit if this route remains as is for the Caribbean Cycling Championships.

• At the risk of appearing to choose sides, I must agree with president Keith Yearwood regarding the attendance – or lack thereof – at regular road races.

Yes, it was great to see a fully subscribed senior field along with the huge crowds lining the very scenic bends and turns of Stewart Hill, but where are these same numbers for Fontabelle, Content and the Garrison?

And whatever perceived ills these clubs may think they have with the administration, their absence hurts their cause more than anyone else’s because then their sponsors don’t have a reason to provide financial support if there is no resulting mileage

But then again I think one club in particular has found that out the hard way.

• It would be remiss of me not to mention Russell Elcock’s time trial victory, though what is there really to say at this point.

There was a time trial. Elcock won it again. These economic times are hard.

What else is new?


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