JAMAICA'S cycling Coach Adrian Clarke believes the performances of his young team at the recently concluded Junior Caribbean Cycling Championships speak volumes of the continued progress the country has made over the years.
Clarke and his eight cyclists — Melaika Russell, Chanelle Russell, Bradley McFarlane, Kristan McFarlane, Cajur Chue, Jaequan Dixon, Khalil Francis, and Damaine Douglas — travelled to the Dominican Republic with an intent to better the country's two silver medals won last year, and that they did.
Though the four silver medals won at the two-day event were courtesy of the Russell sisters in the Juvenille and Junior women's Time Trials and Road races respectively, Clarke was delighted with the competitive nature of all his riders.
"We were expecting medals from every race based on how our riders trained, as the aim was to better the two medals we got last year. So, I'm encouraged and happy with the performances and the fact that we got four silver medals is quite an achievement at the junior level," Clarke told the Jamaica Observer.
"These medals will serve as a significant boost to the confidence of the entire junior programme, as we seek to build on what we currently have. Again, I'm happy with what I've seen and where things are at because we know where the riders are at and what we need to do going forward," he added.
Both Melaika Russell and her sister Chanelle produced some mid-race frolics to claim their respective podium positions against their more illustrious competitors.
Melaika in the juvenile 15-16-year-old Time trial clocked 16 minutes and 35 seconds, behind Bermuda's Charlotte Millington, while Chanelle (16:55) also placed behind another Bermudan, Annabelle Miller, in the 17- and 18-year-old event. The Jamaicans also had three fourth-place finishes on their stats.
Clarke pointed out that the competition was an extremely valuable exercise for riders and also provided an excellent platform for them looking ahead.
"I'm happy that these young cyclists got the opportunity to represent the country.They got valuable experience as, for 80 per cent of the team, this was their first time representing the country," Clarke shared.
"So they somewhat exceeded expectations, and it was really important for the team and the sport on a whole to see some of the younger riders put their hand up," he noted.
Having now ended the season, Clarke said the work continues, leading into next year where the programme is expected to face another busy calendar with hopes of adding to its accolades.
"We are ending the year on a high as we got lots of medals from the elite team at the just-concluded Caribbean track championships as well. So as you can see we are creating a team of broad abilities," Clarke explained
"What this [performances of both junior and elite teams] means is that we are back at the drawing board, doubling our efforts, because we have a structured programme going and, based on what we saw in Dominican Republic, we see that we are right on par with the other countries.
"So training continues for next year's cycling season as we intend to be on top of the next podium," he ended.