Campbells reign supreme with omnium clean sweep
It probably wasn’t the finale fans were salivating for all along. But in the end, Nicholas Paul triumphed in the elite men’s match sprint and all was well in Balmain, Couva yesterday evening at the National Track Cycling Championships.
The Breakaway sprint cyclist spent most of 2017 training in Europe, and it seemed as if the experience is definitely paying off as he saw off Keron Bramble, his more experienced counterpart in two straight rides in the final of the men’s match sprint.
“Bramble Boy” who rides with Rigtech Sonics fell victim to Paul’s top-end speed in the same manner as a number of cyclists have over the last 12 months. Bramble was unable to overtake on the back straight when Paul led out on the first ride, and then was overtaken himself on the final curve leading to the finish after he came out aggressively in the second ride.
Paul seemed to be fulfilling his destiny early if you believe most cycling enthusiasts, as he only turned a senior this season. But the promise of the night’s sprinting events was anti-climactic, as some of the big names pulled out for differing reasons.
Before a cyclist had even clipped into his pedals, the hype of the sprint was electric to say the least. Quincy Alexander (Team DPS) is an experienced competitor and was the winner of the event at last year’s Easter Grand Prix. Then of course there was Arima Wheelers’ Kwesi Browne, a keirin specialist and last year’s national champion in the sprint. Bramble of course is always a contender and Njisane Phillip is a two-time Olympian and 2015 Pan American silver medallist in the sprint.
Add the wild card that is the young and upcoming Nicholas Paul, and you have the race sprint fans had long been waiting for.
However, Alexander pulled out of the event after suffering a nasty spill in the flying 200m in the morning session, while Phillip opted out of the semi-final sprint presumably because he had already made the qualifying time (10.300 seconds) for the national squad hoping to do damage at the Elite Pan Ams set to be held at the same venue in a fortnight.
In the end Bramble had a bye to the final, while Paul and Browne faced off in the semi-final, and the youngster dished out the same treatment to his more experienced compatriot as he did to Bramble to qualify for the final.
In the end, fans were elated regardless and the odd “Team Nicholas Paul” tee-shirt was seen on a fan who was dancing a jig in the stands when he came around the back straight pumping his fist in celebration after his first senior individual national title. “Njisane, is you we wanted!” a fan shouted after the race, aimed at the multiple national champion down in the cycling pit – cueing peals of laughter. But the matchup wasn’t to be. At least not yet, anyway.
Breakaway CC did do the sprint double however, with Kollyn St George making easy work of her clubmate Dominique Lovell to win in two straight rides to win the national title the first time at senior level. St George who jointly holds the Junior Pan Am team sprint record with Keianna Lester, has also been training in Europe this year, and seems to be in ideal shape going into the Elite Pan Ams.
The real crowd-pullers on the night came from a familiar, albeit unexpected place, as the Campbell siblings dominated in the endurance events. Teniel made easy work of the women’s points race to win the omnium overall – she was able to capture all the sprint primes in the process. Her latest win came off the back of her points race and keirin double on Friday night.
Her brother on the other hand was not only satisfied with winning, but making a show of it. Akiel won the men’s elimination race with strategic riding; making sure to stretch the race with three laps to go which made the final two laps a big ask for his club mate Varun Maharajh who finished third, and caused Adam Alexander to tank out in the final lap.
Campbell (A) wasn’t finished yet, as there was still the matter of the omnium points race. He came into the race leading with 116 points, and kept a steady pace while Maharajh and Gevan Samuel made it a two-horse race 30 laps into the race.
With 23 laps to go, Maharajh managed to lap the field and gain 20 points, putting him in a fantastic position in the standings, but things took a dramatic turn as the race’s finale approached. Campbell made his move on the second-to-last sprint prime, taking the five points and then continued his assault in an attempt to lap the field – which he managed with just two more laps on the electronic board. Maharajh took the last prime, but it wasn’t enough as Campbell amassed 164 points to win the omnium, as well as the hearts of the onlooking fans who were mostly out of their seats.
Maharajh finished second overall with 157 points, while Adam Alexander was third with 138 points.
Action continues on the track today, with the men’s standing 250m which pedalled off at midday, and the evening session, which will feature the individual pursuit and the time trial.