LEADING LADY: Junior cyclist Keiana Lester of the Bike Smith club, left, raises her hand in victory as she cops the ladies keirin final from Dhalia Palmer of Jamaica, centre, on the opening night of the Easter International Grand Prix at the Arima Velodrome on Friday. Third was Jodi Goodridge, second left, while Goodridge’s Arima Wheelers teammate Aziza Browne, right, was fourth. –Photo: Ayanna Kinsale

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Bramble hugs spotlight with Njisane

By Donstan Bonn

Patrons attending Day Two of the 2014 Easter Grand Prix at the Arima Velodrome in Arima on Saturday could not have anticipated the cycling feast that awaited them. And though Njisane Phillip and Quincy Alexander put on a scintillating display of sprinting in the match sprint final, it was Elite I competitor Keron Bramble who stole the show.
The Rig Tech Sonics rider opened his account in the two-lap event by outsprinting Colombia’s Diego Pena and O’Neil Samuel of The Braves. His next engagement was the eight-lap event where he used his tell-tale burst of speed to sweep past Gevan Samuel and Jovian Gomez, who were part of a three-man breakaway, to win from O’Neil Samuel with Samuel (G) back in third.
But Bramble wasn’t done yet as he would save his best for last in the Elite I, II, & III ten-lap contest. With one lap left, after Gomez and Linford Blackwood had tried to do it from the front end, Bramble could not be seen but one could sense he was waiting to make his presence felt.
And just when track announcer Colin Chambers, who had given him the moniker “Bramble Boy”, asked where he was, he responded with his trademark acceleration in the final 100 metres to emerge from the pack and flash past the Colombian pair of Pena and Luis Chia.
Bramble’s recent form puts him in contention when the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation hosts the National Championships from May 2 -11 from which teams for Senior and Junior Pan Am Championships and Commonwealth Games will be selected.
The match sprint final pitted Phillip against Alexander after they secured straight ride wins over Jude Codrington and Justin Roberts, respectively, in the semi-final matchups. In their first ride Phillip drew the inside and had to lead off. He would use his experience to bait his rival into going wide, when they began to sprint, while taking the shortest route home to go one-up.
Alexander led off in the second ride and ensured that Phillip did not sneak up the inside but he could not answer when Phillip came over the top with his challenge 150 metres out and had to settle for silver. Roberts copped bronze when he dispatched of Codrington in straight rides in their third place ride-off.
And in action on the international front, the national team drew a blank apart from Phillip’s triumph in the match sprint as Jamaica’s Marloe Rodman took the eight-lap and nine-lap events while Yoeri Havik won the Unknown.
But a well-executed game plan by the Barbados duo of Darren Matthews and Jamol Eastmond saw the latter clinch victory in the curtain event over 30-laps. In a race that had several breakaways including four by Colombia’s Manuel Tunjano, Esteven Cuesta and Pena, the most telling one would come from Eastmond seven laps from home. Matthews, who featured prominently in helping the peloton reel in the earlier breakaways, would now work diligently to keep the pack from connecting with his countryman at the head of affairs.
The ploy worked excellently as when the pack finally managed to pick up the chase on the final lap, it was too late. Eastmond would hold on by a length from a fast-finishing Adam Alexander and Argentina’s Dario Pagliaricci. And in international women’s action, Mexico’s Daniela Gaxiola won all five events, including the match sprint where she defeated Keiana Lester of Bike Smith in straight rides.
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