There's nothing we can do to over-hype the Cross Country - it really is one of the greatest single day races in the hemisphere…and similarly, there's nothing we can do to ease to the country's collective torment because - for the second year in a row - a Guatemalan crossed the line first on Holy Saturday 2011.
What went wrong? What could have been done differently? Will it happen again next year? We'll leave those questions to the experts and the answers to the angels - all we have is our annual race report, a pedal by pedal account of who did what in the 140 mile run. Our team of Codie Norales and Jose Gomez saddled up and rode along - here's what they saw:…
At the start there were 133 riders - 107 of them were Belizeans - two Venezuelans, 4 Costa Ricans, 8 Guatemalans, 5 Mexicans, 4 Americans and one Jamaican.
Leroy Cassasola of Team Santino's was among them - he's the national road champion
The Choto brothers of Western Spirit bowed their heads in prayer to the cycling Gods. Wwhile Mike Lewis - 1992 Champion was battle ready and so was race favourite Geovanni Froggy Leslie along with two time Champion Chris Harkey and his all US team the Hincapie Green Creation.
At 6:00 am sharp - they set off in a burst of motion. At mile 10, American Jeremy Quan and Venezuelan Gil Corodovez made an attempt to break away. Around mile 11, we were there for the first spill of the race, which claimed Froggy Leslie and Chistian Mcnish.
Froggy Leslie tried to go out immediately but his wheel had to be reset. Shortly after, he was back out on the road, labouring with a few lacerations to show for it - with Team-mate Patrick Bennett trying to bring him back to the pack. At Hattieville Nieves Carrasco from Bel Cal won the station prize beating out a group of about 16 to claim that prize.
Somewhere around Rockville, Peter Choto broke away and by the time he reached mile 25 he was already over a minute ahead of the chase group. Around mile 27, he was being chased by two from Indeco Erwin Middleton and Tariq Cano.
Meanwhile a group of 18 including Nissan Arana, Gil Cordovez, Marlon Castillo, Shane Vasquez, Chris Harkey and a few others were more than two minutes behind. But approaching mile 32, Peter Choto drove on at the front representing for Western Spirit Galen Eagles. Meanwhile this was what the main peloton looked like as it fanned out across the highway - as they are powered by a favourable tailwind.
At mile 40 Peter Choto was not letting up - he was a minute and a half ahead of the 18 man chase - as he stood up on his pedals. Loyal Belizean fans with a preference for C-Ray lined up on the roadside.
At the Belmopan Cutoff - Peter Choto was still comfortably in the lead - scooping up over $1,500 dollars in cash and prizes between the junction and the top of Roaring Creek Hill, one of the richest stretches of road in the race.
At the back - the chase group of 18 is about to be gobbled up by the peloton - coming through the haze of bush fires. At Mount Hope, Peter Choto won 400 dollars and a trophy in memory of Rhett Reyes as he is the first rider over that steep climb. By that time, the chase collapsed into the main pack was only 30 seconds behind, as they powered over Mount Hope with remarkable ease.
At go-slow the main pack stayed tightly packed, compressed by the treacherous uphill. Meanwhile at the front approaching Floral Park - Peter Choto was joined by Wilmen Bravo, along with his youngest brother and team-mate Daniel Choto, and an attacking Marcos Salas.
At Georgeville Daniel Choto easily took the prize. Around mile 65 former two time champ Ernest Jawmiane Meighan comes like a bullet from the pack to claim two station prizes. Coming over the Hawkesworth bridge at the halfway point - it's Kyle Gentle of Cayo High Road, a junior rider who is first across the bridge and first around Columbus Park in two hours thirty three minutes, some two minutes off the halfway record time. Heading back to the city - with Ya Ya Marin providing a furious play by play commentary - the rest of the cyclist slingshot around the park for the final 70 miles of the race.
While the team Zamir manager tried to make repairs to a bicycle. Inside Teakettle on the return there was an established seven man breakaway that included Venezuelan Wilmen Bravo, Patrick Benett, Shane Vasquez, American Chris Harkey, Guatemalan Louis Marroquin, and Costa Ricans Juan Carlos Rojas, Neives Carrasco
At Ontario Community Center, Nieves Carrasco of Team Belcal - outsprinted Rojas for the station prize. While At Ontario Village, Juan Carlos Rojas took that prize. At the corner known as Brick Wall, the lead group of 7 was over five minutes ahead - led by Nieves Carrasco - who was doing all the work with the rest of the group sitting back.
But the main pelethon looked to be chasing - forming a straight line around the winding corner, a picturesque scene which told nothing of the riders' physical anguish. At Roaring Creek, two time Champion American Chris Harkey launched a solo attack - and easily took the station prize of one bull.
And he was being chased by Patrick Bennett and the other five riders. At mile 46, Chris Harkey was now officially on a solo run. While he was comfortable in the lead for a few miles - shortly after, around mile 44, he was caught by five riders as Nieves Carrasco who held the front for so long was dropped from this group.
Around mile 42 - the six man breakaway is still together - But the lead is now down to about a minute - with the chase now being led by team Guatemala.
Race favourite Brandon Cattouse is part of the chase, but he got temporarily derailed on the descent of Beaver Dam Bridge leaving him with the unenviable task of having to catch up with the main group.
Approaching Cheers there was a new configuration at the front as American Jeremy Conn in the lead with Guatemalan National Team Rider Carlos Hernandez, Darnell Barrow of Santino's, and Luis Santizo Guatemalan of Sugar City stars had broken clear. At mile 24 and a half Jeremy Conn snuck out of fourth place position to take the hundred dollar station prize and made his competitors know that it's his with a dismissive wave.
That wave could as well have been for the entire pack as the race commissar said the time gap is two minutes forty two seconds. After riding over a hundred miles, riders have to eat and drink - and Darnell Barrow was serviced and bathed by his team.
At Rockville the lead four remained the same as Luis Santizo led the way. At Hattieville, the lead group was down to three as Carlos Hernandez was dropped and Darnell Barrow was punching at the pedals - with Jeremy Conn and Luiz Santizo on his wheel.
A cramping Carlos Hernandez was calling for a massage while Wilmen Bravo, Lisandro Acju, Donicetti Vasquez, Shane Vasquez, John Delong, AJ Meyers, Juan Carlos Rojas and Marlon Castillo were in hot pursuit.
Local favourites Brandon Cattouse and Byron Pope were also trying to catch up. Back at the front - as we approached mile 12 - the lead group of 3: Barrow, Santizo and Conn drove on. At mile 10 - there was no new wrinkle to report, except that the chase group of 20 riders was just a minute behind - led by Marlon Castillo and Wilmen Bravo.
At mile 8, Darnell Barrow took the station prize as Santizo and Conn sat tight. Around mile 7 the time gap between the break and the chase group was 55 seconds. And maybe this is why Darnell Barrow made an attack - but it's futile, the foreign riders stayed glued on him.
So at mile 6, the lead three drove on. Less than a minute later the chase group of 20 were still in hot pursuit. At the police checkpoint - the three were still in the lead and the last time check showed that the chase group was still less than a minute behind.
Just before the Faber's Road junction, Luis Santizo launches an attack - American Jeremy Conn is dropped while Darnell Barrow hangs on. Around mile two - Santizo keeps on grinding and Barrow - the last Belizean hope has been dropped.
As we enter Lord Ridge Cemeter - it's déjà Vu as a Guatemalan rider riding for Sugar City is all alone heading into the city - there's nothing to cheer about as he pulls some huge gears into the city. Flying through town - it's all over - he will come in unaccompanied on princess Margaret drive the crowd of onlookers is mute. Crosses the line solo.
Guatemalan Carlos Hernandez recovers an pulls up for second. While Shane Vasquez - at third - is the first Belizean across the line and American Jeremy Conn is fourth.
And a very self satisfied Darnell Barrow blows a kiss to a heartbroken crowd as he crosses the line fifth. Wilmen Bravo wins the spring to finish sixth beating out John De Long and Andrew Mires who would finish seventh and eighth respectively. While Brandon Cattouse finished ninth and Lisandro Acju rounds out the top ten - making three Belizeans and seven foreigners in the top ten.
And while that was the race, here now is the reaction.
Jules Vasquez Reporting
The Belizean fans who went out to the memorial park to watch the end of the race definitely didn't want to see this - a Guatemalan crossing the line first - for the second year in a row.
When Luis Santizo draped the garland around his neck - he became the second Guatemalan to do so in as many years…
And he stood on the podium with another Guatemalan Carlos Hernandez - to his right - another domination of the national race.
So what went wrong? Darnell Barrow who stalked the winner on the road for so long gave us his account:
Darnell Barrow, fifth
"Shane came from behind with a foreigner and he was driving the foreigner. Shane came and catch and went and left me in the end."
"How would you have like that to play out?"
Darnell Barrow, fifth
"I mean you can't wait for the sub-foot, if you see the break you have to put yourself there. I finally put myself there and what it takes to try to win, It was my first chance at the front, I feel the wind and the pain and everything."
"But where was your team?"
Darnell Barrow, fifth
"I don't know. I didn't have any legs."
"Darnell says that you rode past him around fisheries and you had a foreigner behind you. You basically bringing in the foreigner, he says who ended up beating you."
Shane Vasquez, 2006 Champ, third
"Well yes it was a Guatemalan, I tried to get him to work, he didn't want to work but then if you look at it I am not a sprinter so I would take a chance with any other individual than with 3-4 guys. I am not a sprinter so I rather take a chance and try to beat him out just by high pacing but unfortunately he attack me."
"Shane, are you satisfied with the outcome of this race?"
Shane Vasquez, 2006 Champ, third
"Well I have work really hard this year - earlier this year to train to win. I am not training to come in third, I am training to win the race and unfortunately I never won the race so it just says that I have to work harder next year. I got to wait another year for the race again. To come into the cross country another year from now I would have to work on different tactics other than just heavy pacing and so forth because I notice that coming in the last part of race most riders are coming in now in big groups so now that would then say that I have to work a little bit on sprinting."
And while Shane and Darnell will have to wait another year, Santizo - who has raced and placed in Belizean events before says he knows the significance of this race:
Luis Santizo, Winner 2011 Cross Country
"The sentiment is a great emotion because winning this race is very important; the one who wins this race I believe passes on to history. God help me with this triumphant and I am very happy and I don't have word to tell you my emotions, this is for my family there in Guatemala."
Damian Gough, Manager Sugar City
"The strategy for today as for the strategy last year was to work for Marlon. When we came down into the last 4-5 miles of the race however you can't gamble the win, a win is a win and we'll take that win anytime and I hope the Belizean public understands that this is just the nature of how the bicycle unfolds. Yourself as well as commentators realize this and I am sure that you appreciate that we couldn't sacrifice the winners."
Marlon Castillo, 18th
"Well I put out my all. I feel like I ride the best, I ride like a champion today but like what I tell you it was hard for me to get across myself."
And while the riders of promise were disappointed - in this race, there's always the hope of youth re-captured:
"As a two-time champion did you have visions of the impossible hat trick?"
Chris Harkey, 2003, 2004 Champ, 46th.
"There is always that vision, don't get me wrong, I would love to win but I knew on the way back I was already committed to that move. It's not usually the way you want it to be but you have to do your part. My day will happen again, it will happen again."
"The crowd out here is heartbroken. Again a Belizean didn't win. If you were in your days?"
Glen Gordon, 56 years old, 52nd, 29th. Race
"It wouldn't have happen like that. They would have had to kill me on the bike."
Santizo is the third Guatemalan to take home the garland. Gustavo Carillo did it in the year two thousand, Miguel Perez did it last year and now it's Luis Santinzo. Belizeans earned only three spots in the top ten finishers of this year's race. The finishing time of six hours and eight minutes is almost half hour slower than the record set in 2008….