M & M Tour of Belize starts tomorrow in O.W.
The Belizean cycling scene will heat up this week as the 2006 M & M Tour of Belize kicks off in Orange Walk town tomorrow morning. For the next nine days more than eighty riders will race through five districts, taking on not just the challenge of the course itself but also some strong competition from more than twenty international cyclists who have travelled to Belize just to participate in the event. According to race promoter Roque Matus, the event is designed to give local riders a chance to strut their stuff in the real world of cycling.

Roque Matus, Race Promoter, M & M Tour of Belize
”We are opening it to the whole world, but what we are—at the same time what we are doing is a nine-day event so that the Belize riders can prepare themselves better, because it’s a gruelling race for nine days.”

Janelle Chanona
“How did you come up with the route?”

Roque Matus
”Well we come up with the route by just going town from town, just as they do in any of the other tours. But we also picked stages, the hilliest that we have in Belize so we have a good challenge.”

“The amount of days will be tough. That will definitely be tough because you will ride all out every single day and after seven or eight days, your body will really be tired and you’ll still have to get up the next day and race at full energy. Also, the toughest day will be the Saturday, which is the second to last day. We’ll be racing a hundred and five miles through the Stann Creek Road and we’ll have to climb the Armenia Hill three times; the last [time] they’ll have to sprint up that at the finish of the race.”

Janelle Chanona
“From a technical standpoint, what’s it like trying to put this all together?”

Roque Matus
”Well it’s very time consuming, but very rewarding because the foreigners, we have to put them up, we have to host them, feed them, and we also have to have service for them as well as the local riders. So it is a bit challenging, but it is very rewarding to do.”

“We have ten prizes for the top ten finishers of the race. We also have five prizes for the first five finishers every day. We have a special prize for the rider who can go up the mountains the best, which is the king of the mountain jersey. We have a sprint jersey for the guy who wins the most intermediate sprints along the road, we have an under twenty-three jersey for the best rider who is under twenty-three years of age, and we also have what we call a category three-four, which is for the lower level class riders in Belize, so locals that are not at the high level will be able to be racing for something. We also have three master’s prizes for riders thirty-five and over.”

Defending Champion of the M & M Tour of Belize is Jose Choto of the Cayo district. In addition to a yellow jersey, this year's top rider will also receive a trophy and twelve hundred dollars in cash.