FOR THE first time in Trinidad and Tobago cycling history, the globally hunted prize of International Cycling Union (UCI) points will be up for grabs at this year’s edition of the National Elite, Junior and Masters Championships which pedals off at the Arima Velodrome from 7 pm today.

All contested events scheduled over the three-day meet have been officially sanctioned and accredited by the UCI and will also serve as trials for forthcoming tournaments such as the Pan American Games (May 10-26) in Toronto, Canada; Elite Pan American Championships (September) and the inaugural Caribbean Track Championships (May 2016).

Local riders have now been presented with a golden opportunity to amass UCI points right here on home soil, as previously compared to travelling to distant countries in an effort to enhance their qualification process. Cyclists will receive valuable UCI points towards their overall UCI ranking and towards their World Cup and Olympic qualification.

And returning once more to defend his coveted Match Sprint title is Olympian Njisane Phillip (Rigtech Sonics), who is already in the country preparing for this weekend’s races. He is again expected to square-off against locally-based sprinters Quincy Alexander, Justin Roberts (both of Team DPS) and club-mate Keron Bramble in the pace-filled sprint events.

Meanwhile, last year’s Junior Caribbean Road and Time Trial champion Akil Campbell (Rigtech Sonics) will be making his senior national debut in multiple endurance events. The youngster has proved to be a reckoning force on the senior circuit since his introduction in January and is deeply motivated to succeed against the division’s big guns such as Varun Maharajh (Rigtech Sonics), Jovian Gomez, Jude Codrington (both of Team DPS) and Gevan Samuel (The Braves). Speaking with the road racer yesterday, Campbell revealed that training at the senior level is indeed a challenge. “The senior and elite level is tough, but for National Championships so far, training has been good and I want to go out there and do my best for my club and myself,” said the budding cyclist. “Training has been difficult especially leading up to this year’s Nationals. I would like to qualify for the Pan Am Games and have set myself some required times that must be achieved in specific events to ensure qualification. I will be competing in the Omnium, Scratch Races, Keirin, Points Race and Pursuit.”

Additionally, Pan American golden girls Kollyn St George (Breakaway) and Keiana Lester (Bike Smith) will square-off against each other after the pair proudly represented the red, white and black at the just concluded Junior Pan Ams in Aguascalientes, Mexico, two weeks ago. Pan Am debutants and eventual medallists Sei Daniel and Tyler Cole will also be in action along the Arima track as they also warm-up for a hectic competitive season ahead.

Speaking with Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) president Robert Farrier yesterday, he also reiterated the importance of the 2015 tourney and explained that the structure of this year’s event has been aligned with those of other world renowned UCI-sanctioned events. “The structure for Nationals this year will be held in sessions,” Farrier noted. “We’ll have one session on Friday night, and a morning and evening session on Saturday and Sunday respectively. We have chosen to design the event in this way because all UCI-rated meets are conducted in this manner. We are also asking all fans of the sport to come out and support our riders because they will be looking to scorching the Arima track in sight of improved times, UCI points and Pan American qualification.”

Admission for the National Cycling Championships at the Arima Velodrome is free on all three nights.