Thursday, August 5, 2021
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Trinidad & Tobago – Day Three, Queens Park Circuit Race

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The trouble with getting up before 06:00 and not getting to bed ’til 01:45 is that by the time the next day – that’s today, comes around, it seems like last year. And today is the circuit race at Queens Park.

The morning disappeared pretty quickly – pics, words, chat.

Pete suggested that we head up to the Saint James area of Port of Spain for a look.

We did the thumb out thing and got a lift in an old brown US sedan – it’s hard to know who’s a passenger and who’s in with the bricks but it always seems to work out.

But first, Pete wanted to visit the West Moorings Mall to check out the ripped T-shirts, rock star shades and gold trainers; the usual low key stuff he goes for.

We hitched a little of the way back but bailed out and walked up through Saint James.

Queens Park
Saint James – a ‘cosmopolitan’ area of the city; bars, shops, bookies, noise, street racers.

We had a beer in a rather ‘colourful’ bar but I didn’t think it prudent to produce the camera.

I remember taking holiday snaps in a bar in Barcelona once and a heavy coming up to me and asking me what I thought I was doing – lesson learned.

Just outside Saint James is a statue of Lord Kitchener – not the World War 1 British version, the Calypso singer.

Queens Park
Lord Kitchener.

Calypso is the Trinidadian version of rap but pre-dates it by many years.

Pete and I are going to try and track down a gig – watch this space.

The finishing straight for one of the criteriums is outside The Oval cricket ground.

Queens Park
The Oval.

I’m not much of a cricket aficionado myself but am quickly learning that Brian Lara sits beside God.

The Oval looks like it has been extended many times over the years – the buildings here in Trinidad are a mixed bunch, from hi-tech to the traditional ‘lace’ houses by way of pet shops with two storey high parrots painted on the walls.

Just your everyday pet shop.
Just your everyday pet shop.
Queens Park
The houses here have a certain appeal

Race time was 20:00 so we ambled up around 18:30.

It was a hot night, the ‘Soca’ – we’d call it Carnival music – was pumping from the speakers. The street vendors were out, the crowds were gathering and the buzz was good.

Queens Park
Roberto Chiappa meets his fans.

The Caribbean version of a kermis but without the frites, rain and 70’s disco.

To have atmosphere at a bike race, you need music, people, a good field with plenty of money to race for – and, if possible, decent weather.

This race had all of these ingredients plus carnival dancers, steel bands and coconuts too.

Queens Park
Now that’s what you call a sound system.
Queens Park
You got the best DJ’s on the island…
Queens Park
…you got shrimps…
Queens Park
…coconuts…
Queens Park
…fantastic carnival costumes…
Queens Park
The local people outdid themselves in their celebrations.
Queens Park
The steel band was fantastic.
Queens Park
There were plenty of other distractions for the riders.

The US guys were a little disappointed about how the race went – once the two Argentinians had gone, no one could really get a chase organised.

Queens Park
Race Speaker Ronald Dickie.
Queens Park
The Argies get away and seal things up.
Queens Park
Top man, Arnold.

David Wiswell tried and tried to get across but couldn’t get the help he needed.

Queens Park
Dave Wiswell.
Queens Park
Roberto launches…
Queens Park
Franco leads for a while….
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The local lads enjoyin’ de race.
Queens Park
Giddeon Massie says hi.

The local guys didn’t show too much at the front; not surprising given the quality of the opposition and the speed of the first lap – they’d be thinking that if there’s another one like that, we don’t want to have just come off the front.

Queens Park
Adam Alexander the Trinidad and Tobago road champion was third; a good ride in this company.

I’ve been going to bed pretty early here but with the adrenalin still running from the race, Peter, David Wiswell and myself went for a beer with multi T & T road champion and winner of races all over the world, Emile Abrahams.

Queens Park
The top 3, plus Mike Phillips and Gerard.
Queens Park
Local TV covered the racing live, and the reporter even got on a bike to do the piece to camera.

It transpires that Emile roomed with Hamish Haynes in Belgium in the early 90’s; ‘Hamish was a vegan back then and I’ve always been a big meat eater – we had a lot of “debates” about diet!’

File under, ‘it’s a small world!’

Queens Park
Emile chills.

Two bottles of Carib in a bar where the reggae pounded; a prawn sandwich, eaten sitting on the pavement at 01:00 am – not a bad way to finish the day.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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