It was an exciting morning on St Croix as cyclists and spectators gathered on Sunday to see who would be declared champion in each of the six cycling categories, according to the Virgin Islands Cycling Federation.
The Virgin Islands Cycling Federation held two days of events, including the VICF Individual Time Trial Championship on Saturday and the Governor’s Cup Road Race Championship on Sunday. The champion was decided by adding the finish times of both races; the cyclist with the lowest combined time became the 2023 Champion in his/her respective racing category, according to the press release.
Besides enduring the strong wind and relentless sun, several cyclists experienced issues that caused them a great delay or abandonment of the race. It’s unusual to witness two crashes, a broken derailleur, a broken shifter, a flat tire and broken handlebars within one race, but that’s what happened on Sunday, the press release stated.
The Governor’s Cup Road Race Championship was sponsored by the Office of the Government and the V.I. Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation, and the news of the allocated prize money added to the excitement of the race. Besides a money prize for the top three finishers in each category, a special prime award was given to the first cyclist to reach a designated location on the race course. St Croix administrator from the Office of the Government, Sammuel Sanes, was present to hand out the awards, the release stated.
The Elite group was packed with the most competitive cyclists in the Virgin Islands. As they set out on their hot 50-mile ride (two 25-mile loops around the east end of the island, including Southside and Northside Roads), three cyclists dropped out after the first lap. Stephen Swanton, last year’s Elite Champion, came through the first lap as a solo rider, more than one minute ahead of the rest of the field. Elijah Payeur and Alex Betancourt came through the checkpoint in second and third, respectively, both with obvious mechanical issues. Betancourt abandoned the race, while Payeur sought the use of another cyclist’s bike in order to finish the race. Swanton finished the race uncontested in a time of 2:32:02. He also earned the prime, which was located in Beeston Hill on the first lap. Since Payeur was ultimately disqualified for receiving outside help, David Morales was the second-place finisher in 2:49:04, with Robin Seila close behind in third place in 2:49:42, according to the release.
The Expert field completed the same 25-mile course as the Elite riders but then continued on to a smaller loop, making their race 40 miles. James Bates, who has been the most aggressive rider all season in the Expert category, blazed the first lap and continued to hold his lead for the entire race. He easily claimed the gold in a time of 2:13:44. With Norbert Prospere, the Expert time trail champion, trailing closely behind, Ted Prosper and Ben Tavernier sprinted to the line to capture second and third places, respectively, it said.
The most age-diverse group of cyclists can be found in the Sport category. Mario Butcher, one of the youngest of the group at age 48, finished the first lap of the 15-mile, two-lap course in 48:58, exactly one minute ahead of the trio of Joseph Thomas, Brian Otis and Joshua Belardo. Butcher increased his lead on lap two by another two minutes and finished solidly in first place in a time of 1:40:58. Thomas was second and Otis was third in the 30-mile race, the press release stated.
The Masters field completed a 15-mile loop, with Yves Abraham leading the charge right from the start. Although he finished third in Saturday’s time trial race, Abraham appeared to have fresh legs as he crossed the line in first place in a time of 53:49. Renwick Lynch was second in 55:45 and Brian O’Reilly, the Masters time trial champion, was third, the release stated.
Esther Ellis was challenged for first place on the 15-mile course by Kat Brownsdon in the Women’s division. While both ladies received the same finish time of 49:15, Ellis out-sprinted Brownsdon to the line by inches. Jody Goodrich, who has been an active cyclist all season, finished in third, it said.
The small Junior field consisted of two 13-year-old male cyclists who played “cat and mouse” for the whole 15-mile race. KoleBert Daisley was able to reach the finish line just ahead of Randy Williams, both with a time of 56:06, according to the release.
A special gift was awarded to five cyclists who competed in all twelve races throughout the 2023 racing season: Alex Betncourt (Elite), Stephen Swanton (Elite), Jerry Remie (Expert), Jody Goodrich (Women) and Laverne Fredericksen (Women). Handmade ceramic mugs decorated with stamps of bicycles were donated by DMC Ceramics.
At the conclusion of the award ceremony for the road race, which included cash prizes and trophies, the V.I. Cycling Champions were recognized.
The 2023 V.I. Cycling Champions:
Stephen Swanton (Elite)
James Bates (Expert)
Mario Butcher (Sport)
Yves Abraham (Masters)
Esther Ellis (Women)
Randy Williams (Juniors)