So close, and yet so far.
That’s all hometown hero Emile Abraham could ponder on as he was edged on the line by barely an inch by Rafael Meran, who clinched Stage Four of the Tobago International Cycling Classic yesterday at the Market Square Circuit in Scarborough.
The 60-lap Criterium was all set up for a sprint finale, with the leaders unable to separate themselves in the last five laps. And the home crowd was cheering and egging on Abraham as he roared off the last turn in the lead, Meran and Barbadian Darren Matthews, riding for Team Cocos, at his heels.
The all-out dash culminated with Abraham raising his arms as he crossed the finish, but Meran’s final burst on the outside was just enough to put him on top the podium. At the other end of the speeding trio was Matthews—last year’s Classic champ—in third.
Abraham admitted after the race that he was a bit tired at the end, having lost all but one of his teammates by then.
“I went solo for a bit, but it was a little bit short-lived and that hurt me a little bit for the end,” the rider explained. “I took the last lap a bit hard and had a gap, but Meran was right on me, but he was fresh so he got me right on the line.”
Meran, who hails from Dominican Republic and rides for Team Foundation, was “very, very happy” to take momentum from his Stage Three victory on Friday into yesterday’s leg.
“When I saw Emile take the last corner, I told myself I have to be ahead at the last corner, because I know he is a very good sprinter,” the rider explained.
The duo might well have been out of the race after one lap, when a dangerous spill left them bleeding on the road.
Meran explained: “The first crash was very bad. One guy up front hit the break very hard and everybody crashed.”
They took advantage of a free lap to get back into the race, and kept behind the lead, which changed constantly throughout the race. Emile had it at Lap 23, Meran attacked later on, and Irishman Ryan Mullen (IG-Sigma Sport) pushed the pace a number of times before being reeled in by two of the other teams.
Abraham made a move with nine laps to go and opened out a 30-metre lead, but was hauled back in a lap later. With all his experience, he sat back and went for it on the final circuit, but in the end, Meran had the last say.
In Division II, Roger Smart of Degree Madonna Wheelers stayed almost invisible behind the various leaders in their 25-lap contest, and sealed victory in front of Sylvester Joseph (Southampton) and Samuel Alleyne (Rigtech Sonics), who were second and third, respectively.
Ronald Moses of Subway Slipstream, who led Division II by four points after three stages, looked good for victory before he went down on the final turn. Eventually, the rider bravely got up to finish the race.
Eighth and ninth were the top two female finishers, Dahlia Palmer (Sonics/Jamaica) and Tamiko Butler (Antigua/Mike’s Bikes).
Stage Four of Division III went to Mark London, the overall leader. He beat Tyler Cole (second) and Sheldon Cockburn (third) to the top of the podium.
Abraham did not finish the day empty-handed. In fact, he started it with a win. After watching the children race in different age groups, he grabbed the “Fast and Furious” Road Keirin to the delight of the local fans.
A strong finish by Abraham left Euris Vidal (Team Foundation/Dominican Republic) and Mullen in his wake, and he lifted his arms in triumph even before the line, with neither challenger able to overtake him. They were second and third, in that order.
Today will bring the curtain down on the international cycling event, with the UCI-sanctioned Tour of Tobago expected to be a punishing race for valuable world ranking points for the international riders on the hilly, winding roads of the island. The race is set to start at eight a.m.
1. Rafael Meran (Team Foundation) – 1:22:06.261 2. Emile Abraham (Team Vita Malt) – 1:22:06.291 3. Darren Matthews (Team Cocos) – 1:22:06.437 4. William Guzman (Team Foundation) – 1:22:09.256 5. Jonas Schmeiser (Team NSP) – 1:22:10.256 6. Stuart Meloney (Team Cocos) – 1:22:11.558 7. Michael Schweizer (Team NSP) – 1:22:11.730 8. Stefan Schafer (Team NSP) – 1:22:15.999 9. Ryan Mullen (IG-Sigma Sport) – 1:22:45.343
10. Jerron Williams (Team Foundation) – 1:23:16:715
1. Roger Smart (Madonna Wheelers) 2. Sylvester Joseph (Southampton) 3. Samuel Alleyne (Rigtech Sonics) 4. Georg Fechteipeter (Matrix Racing Team) 5. James Hadeed (Heatwave)
1. Mark London (unattached) 7:44.930 2. Tyler Cole (Sonics)
3. Sheldon Cockburn
4. Desron Clarke (unattached)
5. Andreas Kock (Germany)
Classic “Fast and Furious” Road Keirin
1. Emile Abraham (Team Vita Malt) – 2:36.892 2. Euris Vidal (Team Foundation/Dominican Republic)
3. Ryan Mullen (IG-Sigma Sport/Ireland) 4. Conor Mullervy (Team Vita Malt/USA) 5. Jamol Eastmond (Barbados)