TT’s first-ever female Olympic-bound cyclist, Teniel Campbell of PSL club, turns a new page on her blossoming cycling career on Saturday as she leaves en route to Italy to join International Cycling Union (UCI) Women’s Pro Cycling Team, Valcar Cylance.
Campbell’s selection to this elite group of cyclists also saw her become TT’s second female rider to represent a professional club, with Alexi Costa’s acceptance into CWA Professional Women’s Racing Team (USA) three days prior.
The four-time 2018 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games medallist leaves at 6.15 am and will begin preparations ahead of a hectic competitive 2020 season. Having been the only athlete from TT to already confirm participation at the Tokyo Summer Games, Campbell will be using these gruelling European endurance races to enhance her physical and mental strengths ahead of the Olympics.
“I’m the only international cyclist on the team so I’ll be a new addition for the entire team, as they’re all Italian,” she said after a tough training session on Thursday. “I received the team’s racing itinerary for the season and it’s packed with a lot of high calibre races. There’s so much excitement I’m feeling right now because I’ll be competing at the highest level of women’s cycling,”
Previously, the 2017 Caribbean Road Cycling Championships road race and time trial winner spent approximately 13 months training alongside some of the world’s top coaches and rising athletes at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Switzerland. Although she produced several commendable results throughout the European and Asian circuit during her stint there, the 22-year-old is gearing up for a totally new experience.
“When I was in Switzerland, they took care of me totally. Now, I’m going have to cook for myself and handle my own responsibilities so there will be many new factors in Italy. However, if I want to be selected by my coach, I have to put in time on the bike. My athletic determination is what will push me to achieve the things I want to,” she added.
Campbell leaves the Piarco International Airport via a connected flight to Miami, then heads across to Italy. Upon her arrival, the lanky speedster will undergo mandatory medicals, training camps and team development courses to ensure group cohesion during training, and more importantly, during competition.
Road racing with club mates requires a lot of teamwork and cyclists must have a game plan ahead of races. Campbell though, is deeply motivated to give it her all and cement her name, and TT, on the global road racing circuit.
“My performances will determine where my coach places me to ride with the team, so I must work hard from day one,” she said. “While the Olympics is priority for me, I am also working towards qualifying myself and the team for Classic races and World Tours. This is the highest level that one can reach as a road cyclist and I intend to reach these heights.”
On Sunday, Campbell and some of her PSL teammates including manager Desmond Roberts, took a friendly ride from Eddie Hart Grounds to Las Cuevas Beach for a “final” journey before she heads out. The seasoned racer dubbed this experience, “bittersweet.”
“I will miss my team and my family so much. But I know they’re gunning for me and supporting me from home. This is a new chapter and I’m ready for it. I know what I wanted for myself as an athlete and I am given this opportunity. I won’t let myself down,” she concluded.