Already distinguished by securing the endorsement of UCI (the world governing body for cycling) and ESPN’s coverage to an estimated 100 million people across 150 cities around the world, the Tobago International Cycling Classic is spreading its global reach even further. This year the event is being introduced to live streaming on the worldwide web… This will complement the already impressive coverage by ESPN & other international media, sporting magazines and websites to take the TICC to an even larger international audience.
It’s the start of an international sporting event. The competitors are psyched up, waiting to do what they’ve been preparing for, what they have been anticipating, what they were born for. You can feel the tension in the air, but you can also feel the camaraderie. These guys want to beat each other, but in order to do that they have to beat the terrain, the weather, and the elements and the beauty of it is that you are so close to the action. This is the start of the Tobago International Cycling Classic 2014, an event now revered throughout the cycling world as a cycling event like no other.
For the spectator, sport is all about excitement and admiration. It’s about seeing individuals or teams doing things that amaze us. Doing them to a standard most of us can only dream of. And there is nothing more exciting than being there, so close to the action you can see and hear what’s going on. When the area where it’s taking place also happens to be one of nature’s blessed locations, it’s a double whammy. This is Tobago, so you’re never far from the sea and you’re never far from a coconut palm, maybe a mango tree.
But are these lean, sinewy, powerful athletes aware of their surroundings? Sure they are. They might not have time to take photographs or stop to admire the scenery, because the whole point is to whiz past it as fast as possible. But you can bet your life they appreciate the fact that the roads on which they are currently plying their trade shoot them through breathtaking vistas on the flat and the descents. They might think less fondly of the parts where they are laboring up steep hills, but that’s just part of the deal and they’re not here for a vacation.
Last year was the first experience for many of the TICC visitors and they were curious to see how seriously this event was taken. The answer, they quickly discovered, was very seriously indeed. And you can get a real insight into the world of an international athlete because you can get closer than with most sports. While in F1, for instance, you’re not going to get within 100 yards of Sebastian Vettel and the racing happens so quickly you’re reliant on electronics and screens to tell you what’s happening, even though you’re actually there, with a cycling event, and this one in particular, you get a real sense of being part of it. It is advisable to know the race courses and routes for the 5 days of racing in advance, to make sure you know where to position yourself at the best vantage points.
You might need a tree to shelter you from the sun or the rain. Because it might rain. Of course it might rain. You’re in the tropics, not the desert, and you don’t get lush natural vegetation without plenty of natural watering from above. Last year the weather sorted out the men from the boys, because although the downpours tended to happen outside racing hours, they had an effect on the roads, and that effect wasn’t to everyone’s liking. The attitude of the vast majority, though, is that that is the nature of the beast. If you want a straightforward race on roads as smooth as a pool table and with loads of elbow room, there are plenty of them all over the world. And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But the Tobago event has character because it’s not just an open-air version of spinning in the gym: it’s a world away from that.
Perhaps this element of character was part of what sparked ESPN’s interest in this Tobago event. The international sports broadcaster doesn’t take things on willy-nilly, and has to ensure that the pictures it sends out are suitably captivating for its audience.
A dimension was added last year, with mountain biking included for the first time – and what a natural addition it was, with Tobago’s abundant off-road tracks and paths ideally suited to this kind of thing. It’s a different kind of racing requiring different attributes in its successful exponents.
The Tobago International Cycling Classic brings vibrancy to this laidback island, lighting up a different part of the island every day, from the relatively comfortable-looking Shirvan Road area in Stage 1 to the unmistakably challenging climbs around Les Coteaux and Mount Marie in Stage 2 before descending to the satisfying sweep of the wooded picnic area of Turtle Beach & the scenic beach front of Mount Irvine.
The Classic is an all-round event in which some parts suit some riders more than others. The criteriums – town-centre circuits that can feel like crucibles in the intense heat – at Plymouth and in Scarborough, are very different from the country stages, and the climax is the UCI Tour of Tobago, which is very pleasant in a car but a lot less comfortable on two wheels.
It’s a bona fide international occasion, a week when the world comes to Tobago to exert itself in the name of sport. It’s a notable date on the calendar for those who like the wind in their hair, a speeding road beneath their wheels and the prospect of success, with maybe some prize money. And, if they’ve got any sense, they’ll have a few days tacked on at the end to recuperate on a nice Caribbean beach.
The Tobago International Cycling Classic (TICC) 2014 will host a record number of participants of over 300 competitors with their support groups, families, friends & sporting enthusiasts from 25 countries: Germany, Austria, Denmark, Slovakia, Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom, France, Canada, USA, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Antigua and Trinidad & Tobago.
The 6-day event culminates with the main event; the world-ranked UCI Tour of Tobago Race on Sunday, October 5th, which will take riders over a 120 km course throughout some of the toughest terrain along Tobago’s scenic coastline. All plans are in place for an exciting & action-packed TICC 2014 September 30th. – October 5th. when Tobago will awaken to International Cycling at its very best.
Visit the Tobago Cycling Classic website.