WATCH: Cyclists saddle up for island games challenge

Shetland’s cyclists will have their endurance tested when they hit the roads in Gotland, with each member of the squad participating in three events.

Strength and tactical riding will also be a must with each event requiring a different approach from the competitors. In the town centre, criterium riders will race around a short track in central Visby for 50 minutes.

Any cyclist lapped during that period will be removed from the race, at which point a frantic five lap dash will decide the victors.

Crashes are not uncommon in the criterium with so many cyclists on the road at one time.

First-time competitor Iain McDiarmid described the event as “a bunch of mad bastards riding around in circles trying not to crash.”

There was no doubt that a criterium was a more “hostile” event than the time trials which Shetland cyclists were more familiar with from local competitions, added John William Simpson.

But it was in these events where you discovered your true ability, said Robin Atkinson.

“When you get to do a group ride on the mainland that’s when you notice how much power you have. When you’re riding in a big group you have to chase wheels.”

June Porter, who was part of the table tennis team two years ago, reiterated this, saying that in time trials it was “easier to not push yourself” to your limits.

But in past years it has been in the time trial events in which Shetland have enjoyed most medal success.

Comparing the two, Atkinson said that time trials were like “a candle”. There was a steady burning from beginning to end. Road races were more like a box of matches, he said. In these races there are areas of attack where quick bursts of strength were required, but “when you run out of matches it’s game over”.

Atkinson joked that veteran competitor Carlos Riise was the team’s star endurance competitor, and burned energy like a “church candle.”

The road races were more dependent on tactics, Simpson said, and riders would have to assess where they should push forward and attack. This was in part due to the flat nature of the Gotland track.

Atkinson said it was key for the riders to get a look at the track before they competed.

“When we get out there we’ll get the bikes built then go for a wee recce of the courses to get an idea of what we’re up against.”

The time trial would help to “settle the nerves” but this meant nothing in the road race if riders had not developed an “idea of where the areas of attack are going to be”.

For the first time competitors, there will be a steep learning curve in all of the group events, with time trials making up the bulk of their experience.

McDiarmid joked that he had bought a bike in Shetland 12 years ago as something “that was supposed to be a cheap hobby”. Now, “thousands of pounds later”, he was faced with the challenge of competing in a town centre criterium.

“That’s a warning,” he quipped, “it’s like drugs.”

“Before you know it you’re mainlining £7,000 bikes clad in lycra from head to toe.”


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