By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Cyclist Darel Christopher Jr. arrived in Nice, France over the weekend, to join the Métropole pro team after spending the last 11 years in Georgia, riding with several teams including Evolution Cycling for the past two years.
Cycling became the territory’s latest sport to have athletes competing in Europe, joining athletics, basketball, baseball, football, volleyball and swimming.
“To be honest, words can’t explain because this is like a dream come through, because I’ve worked my entire career just to get this opportunity and here it is, just presenting itself and I’m speechless,” Christopher Jr. said on a recent Sports Beat Magazine program. “All I can do is be thankful. God had a part to play in it. If it wasn’t for him, it wouldn’t be this way.”
Responding to what this opportunity means, his father and BVI Cycling Federation President Darel Christopher Sr., said looking at the territory’s population, one would never believe that the BVI would have athletes competing at the level many of our athletes are competing.
“Look at Mr. McMaster (Kyron) and Ms. Malone (Chantel) in what they have accomplished in terms of world rankings and here it is now Darel Jr. another athlete from the BVI has emerged and now going into a very high level in terms of competition in the sport of cycling,” he said. “I have to say, this is big time sports tourism for the BVI and for a small federation like ours, this is putting us on the world map in cycling. So UCI, which is our world governing body, I’m sure we’ll be heavily recognized at our major sports conferences. We can see a blessing coming forward for the cycling federation, in terms of helping to develop a stronger grassroots program.”
The opportunity Christopher Jr. said, will lead to bigger tours in Europe, travel throughout Europe and probably make it to the Tour de France on day and other grant tours throughout Europe.
“This is like the beginning stage to work and prepare your body for those longer tours and harder tours,” he said. “Tours in America have about five guys who would be the deciding guys. In Central and South America, there will be about 10-12 guys. When you go to Europe now, every team has about four or five riders who can be the leader for that tour. So you’re looking at everyone basically at the same level, it’s just who can out suffer who the most in Europe. Everyone is at that level and who suffers the most will be the winner.”
He said he’s not sure how much of an off season European has compared to riders in the USA. Europeans might have one to two months off from racing while in the USA, it could be up to four months.
As in any sport our athletes compete in, to get the highest levels, there has been a lot of financial sacrifices as well as others.
“This started from 2010 and from a financial standpoint, this has been a serious sacrifice that could probably comfortably construct a 3-bedroom home with a 2-car garage on an acre piece of property,” Christopher Sr. said “People will get will get the idea of the kind of financial sacrifice it has been over the years that me and my wife have made to help Darel Jr., simply because we saw someone that has a passion for a sport. He himself has made a lot of sacrifices apart from the financial sacrifices that have been made in terms of riding, for people to look at him to give him an opportunity to get into Europe and that has come through.”