The island and the people of Trinidad are amazing. What a fun culture and great place to visit! It was one of the best trips and I hope to be back next year. Shelby Reynolds and I were invited to race in the Easter International Grand Prix out in Trinidad and Tobago, and would be the only two U.S. competitors. The day before the race started all of the International riders were taken to Amira Velodrome, a 450m outdoor concrete track. After a few hours at the track we were shuttled to a press conference held by the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation.
Wrenching on our bikes in our room At the Press Conference:
Some of us are more excited than others…
Racing started at 5pm with 41 different races on the schedule for that night. The International Women had six races: Flying 200, Keirin (two rounds) and three scratch races.
How else would you get your bike to the track?
The Amira Velodrome is like a larger version of Hellyer, but the Easter winds were roaring, so I went to a smaller gear than I would have normally ran. This ended up being a huge mistake. The great thing about track racing is that there are so many races in a night; you can constantly learn from your mistakes and try again in the next race.
There are a few differences between racing at home and internationally:
Starting the race at the rail: At home, everyone lines up at the rail, the whistle blows, and the officials wait until the group is together, usually around turn four. Internationally, you better get your bike in a good spot at the rail because when you hear that whistle, the race is on!
Distances: At home, especially Hellyer, scratch races are roughly 8-12 laps. Internationally, the women’s races were 2-6 laps.
As much as I love sprinting a two-lap scratch race, starting at the rail is just plain madness- it’s like a mass start 500m! We had 13 women in the races representing: Antigua, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Jamaica, USA, and Trinidad & Tobago. We had tough competition that made for great racing. We even had spectators, and not just the token significant other who was dragged out. The velodrome was completely surrounded with spectators, people tailgating in the parking lot, and crowd primes bigger than the prize purse because these people came out to see a show! Every night more and more people would come out to watch the races, have fun and truly love the sport of cycling. America- step your game up!
Podium: (Left): Shelby Reynolds, (Middle): Lisandra Guerra, (Right):Me
We had four races on the agenda, three scratch races, and an unknown. That’s right, we rode our bikes in circles with the distance remaining a mystery, ever awaiting the sound of a cowbell.
I also learned a lot of Spanglish while in Trinidad. I highly recommend learning Spanish instead. My ebay watchlist has been filled with Rosetta Stone ever since.
Fast Forward Wheels and Enduro Bearings= Killer Combo
The first two nights of racing were held at the Amira Velodrome, but Sunday saw a change of venue, and racing was held at Skinner Park. As one person described it, “Skinner park is a 400m track, with very shallow banking and just one short straightaway. It looks like a wheel with a flat tire.”
We had four races that night: and you guessed it, three of them were scratch races. All I wanted was one 40 lap points race, is that so much to ask? All the races were fun to watch, and I was really impressed with the amount of juniors riding with us in the international races. Trinidad and Tobago is doing a great job of promoting the sport and developing the youth out there. We had so much fun hanging out with the young girls, “tinymites,” braiding our hair and talking about bikes.
Shelby and friends
We even had a one lap BMX race with all of the International riders racing for a local kid for a chance to win a new bike!
Everything about racing in Trinidad & Tobago was fun. The venue, the people, the competition. Even the announcer was having the time of his life:
As you can see from the picture he was jumping up and down, even running alongside the race while announcing. I’m pretty convinced he is Michael Hernandez’s long lost brother.
Despite language barriers, I met some great people I now call friends. Thank you to the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation for the invite to race, and the opportunity to experience your island and culture!