Cyclist Jude Bentley given emotional farewell

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By Avenash Ramzan

Champion cyclist. Shrewd businessman. Great friend. Benevolent person. Infectious personality.

The tributes flowed on a Sunday afternoon in and around the World Vision New Testament Church of God in David Street, Kitty. So too the tears for a man best remembered for living life to the fullest, for never backing down from a challenge and for standing up for righteousness.

That his very existence was cut in the midst of doing what he probably loved the most will never be viewed as a fairytale ending, but rather a catalyst to reignite the conversation about the dangers cyclists face when training on the country’s main thoroughfares.

The dramatic circumstances surrounding his death a week ago gripped a nation and brought to the fore the magnanimous impact a man and his bicycle had on society.

Family members pay their final respects

Jude Nathaniel Bentley touched many a lives during his 41 years earthly sojourn, and that was evident in the massive turnout of Guyanese from all walks of life on an overcast Sunday afternoon in Georgetown.

A white casket adorned with the logo of 592 Bike Life bore the remains of the cycling champion, whose farewell procession wiggled its way through the streets of the city and stopped briefly at popular spots he frequented.

Cyclists, many of whom Jude competed against or helped in some way to get involved in the sport, were decked out in their uniforms to make one final ride for a man who carried the Golden Arrowhead on his chest at the prestigious Commonwealth Games in 2006.

His mates in 592 Bike Life also paid their last respects.

Reflections

Cyclist Enzo Matthews, a close friend of Jude, said the cycling community has lost “someone great.”

“Everybody is feeling it today, but you can look around and still see some smiles because of what he would have influenced everybody to be- show people, guide them. You can ask 10 persons here today and eight would tell you Jude helped them in some way, whether it was advice or whether it was a tube,” Matthews reflected.

For cyclist Christopher Holder, Jude was “was not just a cyclist or a normal friend, he was more like family.”

“We would always be together, even in bad times. He would argue a lot, but he would still turn around and hug you like nothing happened, so this here is big,” Holder said.

“I have a lot of good memories with Jude; riding around Robb Street, going at the shop and liming with him. The day before he died I was there looking at him and the new bike, and when I get the phone call the morning I still don’t believe it up to now. I still thinking Jude would show up here and say ‘aye, this is all a joke.”

Cyclists came out in their numbers

National cyclist Geron Williams said Jude was always willing to lend a helping hand to up and coming riders, and the cycling community is poorer with his demise.

“It’s sad we had to lose him this way and it’s a real blow to the cycling community and Georgetown on the whole. Jude was a tough person; he’s the type of person who could bring out the best or the worst in you, and most of the times he would bring out the best. He was strong; he taught us to be strong. One of the things he taught me was to be generous and to always help others regardless of the position that you’re in.”

Geron’s father, Glen Williams, who witnessed Jude coming through the ranks in cycling, said the late cyclist, through his Robb Street business Bike Shop, played an active role in bringing new blood to the sport, especially in the BMX category.

“He used to help them a lot, so this is a very big loss,” the elder Williams related. “He was a very aggressive person; he would always encourage you to up your game.”

That Saturday morning

Jude lost his life on the morning on February 8, 2020, while training on the Rupert Craig Highway, just outside the Russian Embassy turn.

He was struck down by a black Land Cruiser, driven by Rear Admiral (Ret’d) and former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Gary Best. The incident occurred at approximately 05:00h while both men were heading east along the highway.

The former Chief of Staff claimed that the cyclist was not wearing reflectors and that he swerved to avoid hitting him when he crashed into a utility pole.

Racing Secretary of the Guyana Cycling Federation, Malcolm Sonaram told the News Room, he last spoke and interacted with Bentley the day before the accident and the rider was planning to make a return to competitive racing the same day he died at the National Park after purchasing a new GIANT bike.

“A sad loss for the cycling community,” Sonaram said.

Jude Bentley’s death has reignited the conversation about cyclists’ safety on the roadways

‘Jude Bentley MoU’

On Friday last, a Memorandum of Understanding, in honour and memory of the late cyclist, was drafted to allow for the country’s cyclists to utilise the inner circuit of the National Park for training in the evenings.

The National Sports Commission, the National Parks Commission and the Guyana Cycling Federation are signatories to the MoU.

Director of Sport Christopher Jones said, “Essentially it speaks to allowing the cyclists access to the circuit after peak hours. It speaks about us- that is the Cycling Federation and the National Sports Commission- providing sufficient signage around the entire circuit, which will alert all and sundry as to the timing when the cyclists would take to the circuit.”

He added, “We want to ensure in his memory, in his honour that the MoU that is going to be signed between the three parties is essentially the Jude Bentley MoU,” Jones added.

The cycling fraternity was well represented on Sunday

The ultimate aim, Jones related, is to ensure a situation such as the one that caused Bentley’s death on February 8 on the Rupert Craig Highway is not repeated.

The National Park already has the infrastructure to accommodate training in the nights with solar lights erected around the inner circuit.

President of the Guyana Cycling Federation Linden Dowridge welcomed the move to have cyclists access the Park, as it something they have been clamouring for, he said. This new arrangement would give the riders access to the venue from 18:00h to 21:00h.

“The culture on the road is different these days; there are more vehicles on the road. And of course now with this unfortunate incident with Jude, we have to seal the deal now,” Dowridge said.

This is not the first time cyclists have been involved in accidents while training on the roadways. In 2009, 12-year-old Vivekanand Rudradeo was struck down by a car while training with his father, while in 2013 Raul Leal was involved in an accident with a minibus, suffering injuries about the body.

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