Barbados Sportive: Sun, Sea and Cycling
Some press trips take you to London or Manchester or even Sheffield. And then some take you to Barbados.
Yes, you heard me right. When the lovely Phil Chudley from Kreeda Caribbean, a company that provides sporting goods and equipment at affordable prices across the Caribbean, invited me to pop over to Barbados for the weekend to preview the route for the inaugural Sun Group Inc. Barbados Sportive, being held on October 6th this year, it would have been rude (ludicrous) of me to say no.
So on Friday morning, we set off on the 8-hour flight (courtesy of the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA)) to this 21 by 14 mile sunny Caribbean island. Having never been to the Caribbean before, my expectations were of roasting hot temperatures, white sandy beaches and a laid back way of life. Barbados did not disappoint. But on top of this, the Bajan people are also some of the friendliest I have ever met. Erskine, who acted as a guide for our trip, was a real charmer, and seemed to know EVERYONE on the island. Wherever we went, we were greeted with warm smiles and excellent hospitality. We were even invited to the Barbados Cycling Union’s (BCU) annual awards ceremony, which was a real honour.
On arrival we checked into the fabulous Divi Southwinds hotel, one of the 14 recommended hotels that Sun Tours Caribbean are offering packages to stay at during the event in October. With a restaurant, pool, mini-golf and tennis courts there was plenty to do there. On the first day however, it was the beach bar that appealed most to our travel weary bodies. Drinking the local Banks beer on the pure white sand, paddling in the turquoise water, was pretty much an ideal way to spend the afternoon. The evening featured a trip to Oistins, a local fishing town, for their Friday night fish fry, essentially a fish barbecue with music, street dancing and a craft market. The atmosphere was fantastic, as was the food.
After meeting with some of the BTA and the BCU on Saturday, we had gained some insight into just how helpful the authorities have been in the organisation of the event. We were told that whenever there is a road race on the island, an ambulance and two paramedics are present, which is in part a reflection on how small the island is and how cycling is really only just beginning to take off there. The entire BCU has around 100 members, fewer than many UK clubs! The Bajan police are excited to be involved and are helping with the rolling road closures happening on the day, which, although traffic isn’t an issue in Barbados (as Erskine told us, three cars equals “total gridlock man”) does make the event safer and more enjoyable, as rules of the road are far more ‘relaxed’ in Barbados than we are used to. The local authorities have also promised to fill in any dangerous potholes in the months before the event.
Sunday we embarked on a recce of the 70 mile gold route of the sportive, which goes through all 11 parishes on the island. The start point is at the Government Offices in Bridgetown, where Kreeda Caribbean will be hosting a bike festival on the seafront. Of the island’s 284,000 inhabitants, about 80,000 live in or around Bridgetown and here you see a lot of the old Colonial influences in the architecture.
Just out of Bridgetown we hit the first climb of the day, Thornbury, a long steady incline that takes you out of the ‘busy’ part of the island where the hotels are, past Grantley Adams Airport and the Barbados Concorde Experience. Soon after this there was another, steeper climb at Mount Pleasant and Stuart Hill. In the 35 degree heat this provided a decent challenge. The climbing didn’t really stop for a while (although wasn’t as tough) as we headed inland and passed by Andrews Sugar Factory and then approached Horse Hill, for a long and winding technical decent into beautiful Bathsheba.
Then we were back at the coastline and heading past Barclays Park and into an area known as Little Scotland thanks to its impressive backdrop of jagged mountains. Not quite the same climate though…
Then comes the true test of the day – Farley Hill. Seasoned sportive riders will think that this 800ft incline shouldn’t cause too many issues, but add in the sticky heat and you’ll find your body working harder than you’d expect. Luckily after Farley there was a long flat section as the route sweeps to the far north of the island through St Lucy and drops back round into the stunning and exclusive Port St Charles. We took the opportunity to sit at the Yacht club here and have a drink while imagining what it would be life to live here (a two bedroom apartment here will set you back $1 million US). We were planning on grabbing a bite to eat here but the $100 buffet was all they had available…
Leaving the luxury boats behind us, we had a steady flat run back down the west coast to Bridgetown. Pro-cyclist and coach, Tony Gibb, who will be the lead out cyclist for the event, rode with me for the next 15 miles or so, giving me a guided tour of the expensive side of Barbados, past the exclusive Sandy Lane Hotel and the designer shops before we headed back into Bridgetown for the sportive finish, and then a couple of miles further back to the hotel for some well earned beers on the beach.
Although this event, with 3000ft of climbing in total, might not appear that tough to cyclists who have tackled la Marlotte or the Etape, it can hardly be classified as an easy ride either. The inclines are tough, especially in the heat, the descents are fun and the scenery is absolutely incredible. On top of this, being able to take in almost the entire island in one event is amazing. Plus the fact that it would a crime not to spend a couple of days in Barbados either side of the event exploring the coastline and soaking in the local environment. I challenge you not to come back from Barbados without a massive grin on your face. I’m already planning my next trip back to the island…
Photos from Alric Gaskin (Gaskin Photographic Services)
This entry was posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2013 at 1:39 pm and is filed under Blog, Cycling Plus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.