The Belize Cycling Association presented the annual Belmopan Classic on Monday 11th. March 2002. One of the new committee's many innovative moves was to require all cycling teams that are desirous of registering foreign riders on the team's roster to sponsor one major race per year at $2,500.00 a pop. In accordance with this requirement this year's Belmopan Classic was sponsored by the Miller (read Santino's) Team.
Fifty eight elite riders including 14 foreigners lined up at the old George August Meatshop at mile 2 on the Western Highway for a 7:00 am start. In keeping with recently established tradition a pre-race controversy preceeded the start - the Smiling Team protested the race officials wearing Miller (the Race Sponsors) Beer shirts since a Miller Team was in the race. The race finally started at 7:05 am and headed toward Belmopan for one lap around the Ring Road before returning to Belize City to finish in front of the Civic Center on the Central American Boulevard.
Evidence that the riders were evenly matched emerged as the peloton remained intact (except for Jeffrey Zelaya whose bike broke when he fell down early in the race) until mile 40 on the journey to Belmopan. At the Beaver Dam Bridge the first serious atack was launched and 9 riders representing all the major teams opened a gap of some two minutes over the main peloton. This lead was maintained through Belmopan and all the way down to mile 30 on the return journey. At this point the Santino's Team seemed to be unhappy with its representation in the lead group. Of the 9 leaders Santinos had one Belizean and two mexicans - the team wanted to ensure a win but with a Belizean rider.Consequently the Santino's Team, under the generalship of former champion Fitzgerald "Palas" Joseph decided to reshuffle the deck. Santinos riders in the lead group were instructed to slow the lead group's pace down while their riders in the main peloton increased the pace of the peloton. This move resulted in the peloton reeling in the lead group around mile 28.
Quinton "the baddest" Hamilton (Smiling Team Premier rider) suffered a mishap in the 20's and the peloton left him behind. The wily Matthew Smiling demonstrated his cycling smarts by sending back domestiques Belizean Hubert "Brother J" Johnston, American Chris Harkey and Mexican Jose Robles (Robles is a really bad dude on a bike) to rescue and retrieve Hamilton. In a move that had to be seen to be fully appreciated the rescue team dropped out of the peloton, waited for Hamilton to reach them, and in a perfectly executed 3 man rotation drafted Hamilton back into the peloton and under Robles' leadership almost blew the entire peloton away. The peloton remained intact for the next 10 miles or so and then Andrew "Bones" Smiling (captain of the Smiling team) was roadsided and ended up in the bushes. Again with perfect execution the Smiling Search and rescue team went back and brought Bones into the peloton. Despite many attacks the 40 man peloton entered the outskirts of Belize City relatively intact and straightened up on the Central American Boulevard for the sprint to the finish. In what I can only describe as a blur the Peloton crossed the finish line at 11:21 am to beat the race record held by Ian Smith by 4 minutes. One Mexican Rider on the Santinos Team was disqualified for cutting across the roundabout.
After reviewing the video tapes of the finish the official results were released as follows :
First Enrique Uribe (Mexican Import) Santinos
Second Chris Taylor (American Import) Team Malic
Third Ernest "Jawmeighan" Meighan Santinos
Fourth Mateo Cruz Santinos
Fifth Ariel Rosado Santinos
Sixth Michael "Big Wire" Lewis Unattached
Seventh Shane Vasquez Team Cayo
Eight Quinton Hamilton Smiling
Ninth Barney Brown Santinos
Tenth Andrew "Bones" Smiling Smiling
WOW !! Cycling has reached a new level in Belize. Kudos to the New Cycling Association for a job well done. Next race is supposed to be the ALL BELIZEAN National Race later this month.