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Mountain Bikes And Music - History-Making Barnes Trekking New Trail At CWG

Mountain Bikes And Music - History-Making Barnes Trekking New Trail At CWG

Posted by Shanelle Weir on July 24, 2014

Dreadlocked with a mohawk and one of the more colourful characters on Jamaica's 2014 Commonwealth Games team,mountain biker Robert Barnes could very well pass for a lead guitarist in a rock band.

Actually, Barnes was the lead guitarist in a rock band - a funky, fusion lot.

Today, the free-spirited fitness expert by day stands on the cusp of history, pedalling his way to becoming Jamaica's first representative in the mountain cross competition at the Commonwealth Games.

First, the music.

"I play music. I have a band and I will be taking some CDs of my own music to some of my favourite riders who I hope to meet," Barnes toldThe Gleaner.

"I had a nice little rock band. I play guitar, I write songs and I sing, so I have that kind of balance, where I am a bit of a warrior athlete, but at the same time I have the poet side of me," he laughed.

It's that tenacious warrior spirit that he will be banking on when he takes on the 3.5-mile Phil Saxena-designed Cathkin Baes Country Park Course.

Still, like his rootsy beats, Barnes is taking on this latest challenge with mellowed calm, his main objective to make a big enough impact to inspire the next generation of Jamaican mountain bikers to pursue their dreams, while prodding the powers that be to see the eco- and adventure tourism possibilities.

"My main objective is to do a good job, finish the race to the best of my ability, and set the seed in the minds of young Jamaicans. The thing is the majority of Jamaicans have a Rambo bike. Not many of them have a road bike; very few have track bikes, but everybody has a Rambo. The sport is accessible to everybody, so it's important to let them know that in four years they can do what I am doing," reasoned Barnes, who himself started mountain biking while studying at the University of Colorado years ago as an off-season activity for his road-cycling focus.

Glasgow 2014 will be his first international competition aboard a mountain bike, and as he gets ready to put months of training in the hills of St Andrew to the test, he is more than aware of the enormous challenge that awaits - ready, quite like the bumps and turns at Cathkin Baes, to unseat him and send his dreams crashing to the dirt.

"I expect the competition to be very stiff because the guys who are racing the mountain bike circuit raced the World Cup in South Africa, Canada, USA, Europe. They are all over and I expect the competition to be at a really good level," Barnes assessed. "Plus, the Brits have home field advantage. I have about seven or eight days to preview the course and do my best, but they have been training on the course."

He added: "My preparation has mostly been in the St Andrew hills - for instance, going up Norbrook, up to Woodford. I ride up to Holywell, up to 4,000 feet, and then I come back down through Newcastle and Papine, which is almost a three-hour ride. I tend to stay in those mountains; they are world-class hills.

"I also do a bit of running, so there are days when I don't get on the bike, I run, and, therefore, also augment a different type of fitness in my body," shared Barnes, who is also group fitness instructor at Gymkhana.

"I am looking at this with the whole tourist angle in place because Jamaica is the ideal place to ride a mountain bike. You're not on the road, you are riding through farm tracks, cow pastures. We have more open land and track than we almost have network of roads, so it's the perfect opportunity to go out there, represent the country and show people that they can come to Jamaica and get really fit and enjoy themselves," he added.

The men's mountain bike competition will ride off on Tuesday, July 29 starting at 11:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m. Jamaica time)

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