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Gallery: Learning the track in Guadeloupe

Anybody who knows this island in the Caribbean knows just how passionate it is when it comes to cycling.

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Wednesdays are busy days at the Vélodrome Amédée Détraux, just outside of the capital city of Pointe-á-Pitre on the French island of Guadeloupe. And this day was no exception.

Anybody who knows this island in the Caribbean knows just how passionate it is when it comes to cycling. The Tour de Guadaloupe — now almost 70 years old — is often compared to the Tour de France here, as huge crowds pack the roads year in and year out. And track cyclist Amédée Détraux is still remembered fondly for his ability to rival three-time Olympic champion Daniel Morelon in the 1960s and 70s.

“This year we lost some license holders due to the sanitary [ed., COVID-19 lockdown] situation, but yeah, cycling is hugely popular in Guadeloupe,” Frédéric Théobald, president of Guadeloupe’s cycling federation, explained as he met with the different classes on the infield. “Usually we have about 3,000 members on the island. And we are trying to get it up to 5,000 with all our different programs.”

With 17 editions of the Tour de Guadeloupe under his belt, Théobald holds the record for participation. But while he is still visibly fit, most of his energy today is directed at developing the sport even further here in the Caribbean. “The idea of these initiation days is to get kids interested. And the ones who show interest we put in touch with local clubs so that they can really start riding.”

“It’s my first day on a bike like this — a track bike with a fixed gear,” said Elodie Ho-Yick-Cheong, one of the local school kids participating in the initiation day. “I’ve ridden bikes before, but this is different. And it is hard. I mean getting used to braking without brakes, well, that’s really unsettling at first.” But the 13-year-old was clearly one of the day’s success stories, as she stayed on after her class to continue riding her bike around the lower banks of the track. “Yeah this cool, I’ll definitely come back!”