Oliveira and Rowse target more teenage kicks

  • Defending champion: Rowse could face competition from Estwanik and Hoey

Matthew Oliveira and Alyssa Rowse will look to retain their cycling titles when the Butterfield Bermuda Grand Prix is held this weekend, starting with the hill climb in St George’s tomorrow.

The Warwick Academy students became the youngest winners of the event last year — both aged 16 — with strong performances over the three stages, which will involve the road race at Southside on Saturday and the criterium in Hamilton on Sunday.

Oliveira was fourth in the hill climb and second in the road race before dominating the criterium to win his first title. “My strongest race for sure will be the criterium,” Oliveira said. “I plan to race smart and tactically on Sunday in order to win overall and plan to do well in the previous two days to ensure I’m in a good position.

“I think I can do well in the hill climb and aim to beat my time from last year. This should give me a few bonus seconds for the overall time for the three days.

“I think I can do some damage to the field in the road race with the help of my team-mates Kaden Hopkins, Darren Glasford, Mark Hatherley and Anthony Bartley.”

An interesting contest is shaping up in the women’s race where Rowse could face stiff competition from 2015 champion Zoenique Williams and the likes of Ashley Estwanik and Rose-Anna Hoey, more known for their exploits in road running.

Estwanik and Hoey are members of the Madison team which also has Sarah Bonnett and April Joyce. Leading up to yesterday’s 6pm entry deadline, about 80 cyclists had signed up.

“Madison will have three or four strong women racing, so that gives a heavy team dynamic,” said Peter Dunne, the Bermuda Bicycle Association president, who is also competing this weekend.

“Hopefully the other riders can find a way to work around them, to find a strategy to make it competitive. There is a lot of similarities to distance running, but part of it is attitude. Ashley has been doing mostly bike stuff competitively and she’s got a strong engine, is very competitive and you can’t rule her out.”

Williams was hit by health issues last year, although she did compete in the Grand Prix. Soon after she spoke publicly for the first time about her battle with multiple sclerosis which was diagnosed a few months previously.

“Zoenique raced a couple of weeks ago and is learning how to be a cyclist with her illness,” Dunne said. “We discussed it and her health comes first, then she can slowly work her way back into the sport.”

Dunne expects Oliveira to be a strong contender in the men’s race. “He has the target on his back every week that we race, he’s consistently the strongest,” Dunne said. “He races very aggressively and this is an event that will reward the person who is aggressive. The real issue is whether the other competitors have figured out how to beat him.”

The race will be the final big cycling event before next month’s Sinclair Packwood Memorial Race. Gabriella Arnold, the women’s champion, is expected to be back to defend her title.

“She is attending Marian University in Indiana, a top cycling school in the US, and she’ll be pretty fit,” Dunne said.

The BBA is close to finalising a team for the NatWest Island Games in June in Gotland, with Dominique Mayho, based in Belgium, to lead a squad of ten.

“He’ll be our road captain,” Dunne revealed. “We will have a very strong men’s and women’s teams, we’re try to use that event to help develop some of our younger riders.”

Mayho will represent Bermuda at the Pan American Championships in the Dominican Republic from May 4 to 7.