National cyclists Nicholas Paul, Njisane Phillip and Keron Bramble, working back from that order, had all at the Velodrome in Lima, Peru holding their breaths for 43.972 seconds on Thursday night. It took that length of time for the local cyclists to race across the line to win T&T's first gold medal at the Pan American Games in the Men's Team Sprint event.
"It's a pleasure for the team and the country. We train every day, day-in day-out to just rep the red, white and black so we're just happy to come out with the victory and to raise the flag high," said Paul after he and his teammates collected their gold medals then sang the national anthem as the national flag was hoisted above the flags of silver medallist Columbia and Brazil, who bagged bronze.
"It's feeling good. We set this goal from since last year," said Phillip, who like his fellow riders were all smiles. "Just being able to come out and execute today (Thursday) was great. Being able to hit 43 is a big accomplishment for us as a team and surely build from here.
"We have Pan American Championships in the next three weeks which is an Olympic qualifier, we get points in that element and we're trying to go out and win again.
"Right now we are ranked 11th in the world in Olympic qualifying so this year, we have to step up our game and be able to produce some times just to make sure we qualify for Tokyo 2020 in the team sprint."
Bramble was the quietest of the bunch but his performance, racing in lap one, spoke loudly for him as he got off T&T well in the finale clocking 17.938 in the first 250 metres. Phillip completed the second lap with a 12.655-clocking and it was Paul bringing home the win with a 13.379-timing in lap three.
"Our performance has been going uphill since Mr Erin Hartwell came and bring the team together so it's been a work in progress and we are just happy to see our progress and hard work is paying off. We are just happy and just going forward from here on," said Paul, recognising the contribution of national cycling technical director Hartwell, the effort he has put in, to see the local team win T&T's 12th gold medal at the Pan American Games.
Hartwell gushed about his riders after their success, sharing that they are going to celebrate the win but knows that there is much to be done to get success at the next level.
He said, "That's a phenomenal result for us, that's a national sea-level record that's a track record here. We have been targeting the 43s for the past year. We, at sea level conditions, were slow, air density was high with the under relatively cold and so we had high expectations coming in honestly as Pan American champions anything less than gold would be considered a loss.
"So everyone knew the pressure they were under but we still have to step up and reality is coming home with less than gold just isn't acceptable so if it's one thing we do is come through, knowing the pressure and I'm super proud of the guys and what they were able to accomplish.
"We did have to reshuffle the line up from what we ran at the World Championships and the World Cups and there is always some risk with that I put Keron Bramble under some pressure in that P1 spot, which is a pressure perhaps, to say the least. The guy came through with flying colours. I could not be more proud.
"Njisane Phillip did a 12.6 ride, that would have been third fastest at the World Championships so he is showing that he can move between positions and then Nicholas Paul slotting back to P3 with 13.3, I mean that was just a huge result from him. And again culminating a great time and a great result of Pan Am gold, I'm happy with that."
T&T set the tone earlier in the first session, stealing the spotlight by qualifying for the gold medal race with the fastest time, 44.260, of the six teams that entered the competition. Peru was eliminated in the first round and Venezuela did not start.
The Colombians, however, were second-best team advancing with a time of 45.046 to set up a ride off with the T&T men for the top spot on the podium.
"This morning (Thursday) just being able to qualify and seeing that we qualified with 44 while the other guys did 45, we were definitely on target," said Phillip.
In the final, despite having to wait to take the track as the bronze medal race between Brazil and Mexico had to be restarted three times. In the end, though, it was the Brazilians taking the bronze after the Mexicans were disqualified after false-starting twice.
The delay though didn't phase the T&T cyclists as they set aside their warming blankets, mounted their bikes and sped off to glory.
"Coming into the final, we were confident that we were going to put up a good time and we were trying to go 43 rather than just go for the gold. We were trying to go 43 and we made it."
Hartwell confirmed that these young men have the right attitude and fantastic work ethic saying: "We run a very tight ship. This is an ultra-professional environment and everybody understands that this is business. We have jobs to do. Everyone shows up each day on time, gets the work done.
"We plan well in advance to cover all contingencies or as many as we can, something can always pop up obviously but it been a strong two years and last year everyone was under pressure just from having to grind, grind, grind and qualify for Worlds, World Cups, all that.
"I was questioning how much of a toll it took on everyone and could we get that back. Fortunately, we had some time off after Worlds last year. Just got into a good training block, a good 12-plus weeks, went to the US, we weren't under as much pressure as we were last year to score UCI (International Cycling Union) points. We still were able to grab some points, we trained through it which allowed us to better prepare for this competition because this 2020 season starts now so Pan Am Games was a big target for us. We got a bit more work to do and also focus on that now the Pan Am Champs.
"We got 43.9, that's the time we need to be meta competitive at World Cups and start chipping away at those final spots for Olympic qualifications so I'm quite encouraged, there's a lot of work to be done but we will take the win tonight (Thursday) but tomorrow (Friday), we get up and do it again.
"It was a long season which took its toll, again we reshuffled a couple of the things. Kwesi Browne, we saved his legs for the Keirin coming up but he is our fourth guy right now. He is in that mix too. I did consider him for this evening but I thought let's just keep the squad from the qualifiers into the evening, keep it nice and tight and see what happens.
"I'm encouraged," said Hartwell.