Four-time Olympian reflects on his greatest moments in cycling
By Michael DaSilva
February 1, 2007
Guyanese-born Eon D'Ornellas who now resides in Canada said he had great moments in cycling, but his best was winning the Canadian national championship back-to-back.
"My greatest moment was winning the Canadian national championship on two occasions, it was the very greatest moment of my life, that was in 1986. It was a dream come true because I was the first guy that ever won two Canadian championships back-to-back in Canada, the road race over 220 kilometres on Saturday and the 80-kilometre criterium which is a very tough event on Sunday. It wasn't the easiest thing to do."
In 1984 D'Ornellas was selected to represent Canada at the Los Angeles Olympics, but because of a conflict with his coach and despite being given his number, he was replaced by someone who D'Ornellas felt was below his standard.
D'Ornellas said further: "The glory and the feeling of it (winning the Canadian national championship twice) is that at the 1984 Olympics, the same coach was coaching the Canadian team but I rode away from them all. I finished by myself, away from them and I travelled the elevator with him (coach), and I said, 'you know what, you have done this to my life and my life will go on, I'm the Canadian champion now and what you've coached today is garbage'."
However, there are persons who feel that D'Ornellas' greatest achievement was winning the 120-kilometre road race in Vimmi, France.
Asked how he would rate winning back-to-back Canadian national titles with winning the Vimmi event, the 54-year-old Alberttown, Georgetown-born cyclist said: "Going back to Vimmi Ridge, that was the biggest thing for me in my life I think, but not as great as the Canadian championship, and the reason why, the same coach that dropped me from the Canadian Olympic team, he lives in that same town. When I won the Vimmi Ridge, I didn't even know Vimmi Ridge, I was just racing through France, then I found out that Canada had fought the war there and had won the war in Vimmi Ridge and what they actually said when they made the presentation that day at City Hall is, that Canada came back in revenge to win in Vimmi Ridge. "
In Vimmi Ridge, I finished by myself, you know, with 10Ks to go, big climb, three of us broke away and I attacked, an unbelievable attack and took off, and we had a big uphill finish and I rode away from the other two guys. I was really a strong guy then and it really came from my determination, my efforts and my life.
"I used to do 25,000 kilometres a year training, I used to do 80 races a year, suffered, spent times in hospital under the needles to recover, unbelievable stuff I went through in life, dehydrated, didn't know where I was many times in races, first Canadian that went to Holland and finished in the top 10. Races in Holland are the toughest races to be in."
Summing up, D'Ornellas declared: "So in general, I felt very proud of myself, and today I just look back at it and where I started from and where I went and what I have today."
Asked if he has been following cycling in Guyana and the progress of local cyclists, D'Ornellas who owns and operates a Bike Shop and Gym in Scarborough, Canada said he never had a chance to follow the progress of the sport in Guyana. But at times his friend Aubrey Bryce, another Guyanese Olympian, would sit with him and tell him about some good upcoming cyclists here in Guyana. "So I never really had the opportunity to really know what's happening with cycling in Guyana, but from what I've gathered, it's a little at the low end of the cycling scene . . . "
Asked what is needed to fast track the sport locally and regionally, D'Ornellas opined that there is a lot potential here but unlike the break he got, persons are not getting the opportunity to move forward.
"If I look back to my time, the opportunity I got in my life, I think we have guys with the potential who never got that opportunity, but there is hope for them, and they can do very well, but they'll have to work hard, you have to work very hard, you have to be dedicated, you have to expose yourself to a tremendous amount of quality racing to get strong and these are the things that are needed."
The Olympian added: "I was preparing for the US pro championships in 1980, I was training down in North Carolina and was motor pacing with two others 70 to 80ks per hour and we do it continuously, 10 minute efforts with two minutes rest and back again, and we keep rotating. . . I ended up being at the back of it and there was a rock on the road and my driver did not signal me and I went down and spent the whole week in hospital.
There was a race that weekend, but my whole team refused to ride because it was raining, and I got my doctor to bandage me up, went into the race and placed second in the criterium, but I didn't know I had broken ribs, and next morning when I got up, I was in real pain. I started the road race the next day and could not finish, I went home and spent six weeks recovering. I subsequently participated in the US pro championships and finished a poor 40th.
Asked what he is wiling to do to assist with the development of the sport in Guyana, D'Ornellas indicated that he expects to meet with members of the Guyana Cycling Federation to discuss plans for staging an annual three to five-day race, which he hopes will attract riders from the Caribbean, South America and North America.