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#434886 - 04/05/12 09:54 AM Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic
Marty Offline

More than a race

The 84th Annual Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic is only a few days away, and the Easter weekend frenzy and fever, the romance and the nostalgia of family reunions, are inevitably beginning to kick in, as Belizeans make their travelling preparations, those who are leaving for the holiday weekend, and everyone is looking forward to the race that rekindles life in the nation, after the somber suspension of activity with mournful Good Friday gives way to the fresh dawn of Holy Saturday filled with hope. Holy Saturday is when the full glory and uniqueness of our cultural legacy takes center stage, as we review and relive the historical episode of the first Cross Country, and the many epic journeys since, that make the folklore ever growing for Belize’s special race. No other cycle race possesses the mystique and the historical significance to match the ‘Country – the reenactment of the painstaking plotting of the social and cultural ties that bind the folks in our productive western hills and valleys, through the eastern flatlands, and persevering on through nature’s favor or challenge to reunite with their seaside relatives and friends in the old marketing capital.

That they can’t take away – our history, the history of Cross Country.

Being a cycle race, and with globalization upon us, visitors from other lands have come and won with increasing regularity. To many of us, it seems the prize money that gets fairly big at ‘Country time is what attracts the foreigners, some of whom we have suspected of not being “clean”. But our Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic has also found a special place in the hearts of the visitors; they all want so badly to win a ‘Country. But only one man can win each year; and so there is still a war out there on race day, even if many of our Belizean hopefuls sometimes seem to be only going along for the ride. Yet, every once in a few years, we have somehow managed to come through. It’s been a long time now. Inevitably, the garland will come home again; but when?

However, there is one consolation. Belize has given birth to something very unique and beautiful; and in time and with proper nurturing it will get bigger, and more craved and coveted by international riders. The future will someday be ours in the strategic marketing and profiting of our economy from this grand old race. So, a foreigner may win again. We’re preparing our hearts for the break; but we’re leaving a little piece to hope with, in case there should somehow come a chance for joy and jubilation and celebration like when Shane came home in 2006. But regardless, one thing for sure, no matter who takes the precious garland come Holy Saturday; if a foreigner takes it and joins our historical and cultural list of champions, he can travel with it; we’ll make another garland next year. But he can’t take Cross Country with him, except in his heart. And as we say, “you can go, but yo must come back.” Cross Country is ours, Belize’s, from generation to generation, forever our own, to share with the world, our one and only, Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic.

We’re ready for anything. We’ll all be praying for our boys; but we are realists. Whoever wins, even a foreigner, we’ll give him our warm Belizean hospitality and the respect he earned out there. That’s the spirit of Holy Saturday. We’re ready; but please, don’t let it be a Guat’ again.


#435002 - 04/06/12 08:51 AM Re: Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

VIDEO: Race for the Garland

#435177 - 04/08/12 08:33 AM Re: Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Choto Brothers; all five riding for the garland

The staging of the eighty-fourth Annual Cross Country Cycling Classic is set for Holy Saturday. With big cash prizes, and the country awaiting a Belizean to take the garland this year, it is expected that the Cross Country may very well be one of the most exciting yet. Since Shane Vasquez won the coveted title in 2006, foreign riders have claimed the title every other year. And so it is that the local boys have been training and getting ready for the highly anticipated cycling meet. The Western Spirit out of San Ignacio, Cayo is definitely one of the teams to watch, with a roster of big names like Vasquez, Troyer and Choto. News Five travelled west to meet up with the five Choto Brothers. In previous cross country classics, they have performed exceptionally, ranking fourth and being the first Belizean to cross the finish line. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports on the brothers’ preparation on the road to the garland.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Choto Brothers, the pride of every household in the west, are triathletes and cycling stars. And on Saturday, the staging of the biggest race in Belize, the Cross Country Cycling Classic, you’ll surely hear their names. The grueling one hundred and seventy four mile race is one that requires maximum preparation. Shortly after six this morning we met the Brothers and a teammate of Western Spirit, pedaling along the western highway. Twenty-three year old Giovanni Choto says, the training was no easy task:

Giovanni Choto

Giovanni Choto, Cyclist, Western Spirit

“Well the training mi very hard; we know the training always harder than the race actually because you train by yuhself and yuh deh out deh suh whole day pahn the sun and thing and then the race dah just one day yuh know. Hopefully wi win; anybody from the team; wi wah win bad and hopefully wi win.”

Andrea Polanco

“In terms of the training, do you start training months in advance or the whole year round?”

Giovanni Choto

“We train whole year round. We guh di train like fi every race and then after the race we back off again and then we pick it up back and dah suh we do. Like all year round through cross-country and through all the races”

Twenty-two year old Peter, like his other brothers, has a winning strategy:

Peter Choto

Peter Choto, Cyclist, Western Spirit

“The most Cross Country, fi we plans when we go out deh is that I have to most ah the times run fi the prize nuh and that dah mostly it because after that I nuh really finish the race.”

Andrea Polanco

“So your goal is to pick up the station prizes?”

Peter Choto

“Yes. Most ah the Cross Country deh we well prepare fuh deh.”

These cyclists believe team work will give them a competitive advantage; but even with their A game ready, they are mindful of the foreigners:

Giovanni Choto

“I think the advantage weh we have that we dah five ah we and we train together every day and we put each other under pressure because we nuh guh out deh guh ride easy every day. We ride hard and sometimes some ah we di get it; sometime I get let go and sometime dah the next one and we have to work hard fi get back again.”

Andrea Polanco

“When you are out there riding in a competition, is it every man for himself or is that, ‘that’s Peter, my brother or Raphael, my brother?”

Giovanni Choto

“We look out fi each other wah lot and inna race day we go with the same mentality because if Peter would ah get let go or punctured I would have to drop back and work together with he so that he nuh burn out ihself fi come back.”

Andrea Polanco

“Do you believe that this year you’ll see strong competition from the foreign riders?”

Giovanni Choto

“Oh yes, for sure. Lotta the foreigners we done know dem and deh dah lone good foreigners and deh nuh come ya fi nuttn, they come ya fuh mek money.”

Andrea Polanco

“Okay, do you think it will be harder for a Belizean to win this year?”

Giovanni Choto

“Yes, ih wah be really hard. I think ih wah hard fi mek wah Belizean win. I nuh think many Belizeans stand wah chance but all the foreigners come inna dah shape.”

Raphael Choto

The country has been thirsty for a win; after all it has been six years since a Belizean cross the finish line. And with fifteen grand on the line, Raphael, Choto, says it can go either way:

Raphael Choto, Cyclist, Western Spirit

“I nuh think ih wah come inna wah sprint but I think ih wah work out inna the race itself. I think this year ih wah different than most years.”

Andrea Polanco

“Why? Why is that?”

Raphael Choto

“Because weh we hear from the foreigners weh di come and suh, I think ih either be like wah easier race than usual or ih wah harder than usual but ih nuh wah be like the normal race weh go through. We are motivated more and I would ah really wah mek one ah the guys from the team get it or even me. And the cash prize really give you ah lotta motivation when you hear bout it.”

Andrea Polanco

“Which one of the brothers you think will cross that finish line first?”

Raphael Choto

“I think it depends pahn how the race works out. I think ih have Pete and Giovanni. I think one of the two will cross the line. If Pete nuh guh fi prize then I think he will but I think Giovanni have the better chance.”

Daniel Choto

Also riding in the race, is the youngest, nineteen year old Daniel Choto. This will be his second Cross Country:

Daniel Choto, Cyclist, Western Spirit

“The Friday before we usually work but then fi we bredda weh dah fi we boss give we the day off. We usually prepare fi we bikes because like fi we service people fix our bikes and suh but we prefer fi service if fi we self to ensure that everything in shape.”

Andrea Polanco

“So do you go to sleep early?”

Daniel Choto

“Definitely, we go sleep early like always before the days ah training and make sure we get enough fluids and thing to eat and suh.”

The eldest brother, thirty two year old Jose Choto participated in over nine cross country classics. He hopes that Western Spirit will seal the deal for Belize:

Jose Choto

Jose Choto, Cyclist, Western Spirit

“Fi tell yuh the truth, fi win Cross Country ih nuh easy because I try it wah lotta years and I prepare good but dah wah hard race weh you compete with wah lotta countries. I think that this year wah Belizean could win and ih could be from fi we team because we prepare good this year and we deh with wah strong team along with Shane Vasquez, and Roger and Richie Troyer. And I think that this year we prepared very good and I think that if we wah win it we have to ride lee smarter because usually we go out too early and drop short inna the end and sometimes we have to move lee early because they have lotta station prizes and we nuh wah get left out ah it suh. Yes, I encourage the guys deh wah lot and sometimes when we kinda nuh come out because I mean, even if I nuh win I would ah want one ah deh win and if one ah deh nuh win, I woulda want the team win ih self, if Shane nuh win, Roger win, whichever one ah we win, it’s the team win and we happy with that.”

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Channel Five will be carrying a live broadcast of the Cross Country Classic along with commentaries from Sportscaster James Adderley and other associates. The race starts promptly at six a.m. near Leslie’s Imports at the Western Highway entrance to Belize City.

Channel 5

#435178 - 04/08/12 08:33 AM Re: Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

At the finish line: Go Choto

Riding in by himself, Giovani Choto wins the Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic and lifts the spirit of an entire nation.

Riding for "Western Spirits", Giovanni Choto ended the 5 year dought for Belizean cyclistst by winning the 84th Annual Holy Saturday Cycling Classic. Choto broke away from the main field of riders at Mile Nine on the Western Highway heading to Cayo and never looked back. He finished a full 3 minutes ahead of the nearest competitor. Congratualtions Giovanni Choto.

LINK for photos

VIDEO: 84th Annual Belize Cycling Classic Finish Line - 2012

The Finishing of the 84th Annual Belize Cross Country Cycling Classic. Finally Belizean, Giovanni Choto, Brandon Cattouse and Darnel Barrow has disrutpted the 6 year winning streak by foreign riders and has won 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively.

#435399 - 04/11/12 07:54 AM Re: Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Joy Of Joys: The Garland Stays Home!

It was a very violent and tragic weekend in Belize: 8 persons died; three were killed, and another 5 died in drowning and traffic accidents - while five more - including a ten year old and two teenagers were shot.

A lot of bad news, too much, honestly….but tonight we'll start with the good news, very good news, actually: the Cross Country Garland is home safe tonight, a Belizean has won it.

Even if you were under a rock somewhere this weekend, you'll definitely know that Giovanni Choto went on one of the greatest rides in history to become the 84th. Cross Country Champion.

7news was on the road with the race and here's how it all unfolded:

Jules Vasquez reporting 80 riders lined for the 84th race for the garland including some 7 foreigners - at 6:00 am they were off.

As we head towards mile 8 - 5 riders have already broken away - these are Mark Staine, and Allen Castillo of Benny's, Kyne Gentle of D and D Cycling, Sherman Thomas of Capital City Cycling Club and Giovanni Choto of Western Spirit. And then the inevitable happens: Mark Staine loses control hits the pavement, moments later, Kyne Gentle loses control and hits the dust. So what was five is now three.

The crash was consequential because the Benny's second rider in the break, Mark Staine was now on the pavement, leaving only Allen Castillo to defend Benny's and then Kyne Gentle left D and D with no representation in the break.

Around mile 13 - the leader three is working smoothly and the time gap on the main pack is already a minute and a half.

At the entrance to Hattieville - Giovani Choto claims the station prize given in memory of DJ Scopio.

The main peloton at the Hattieville police station was led by Benny's Megabyte. At Rockville Giovanni choto again claimed the station prize. The main peloton was already two minutes behind.

Around mile twenty two it was over two minutes separating the breakway from the main bunch.

Around mile 29 Andrew Ordonez Bike Shop represents - while Giovanni Choto drives on. At La Democracia, it's Allen Castillo's turn to take the station prize. while off the pace, Choto takes down an energy gel. Around mile 44, there's no more Sherman Thomas - it's only Giovanni Choto and Allen Castillo and the time-keeper says the gap is 4:38.

At the Belmopan Cutoff, Allen Castillo claims the station prize. And coming towards the Belmopan cutoff almost five minutes later is the main pack - in no hurry to chase the breakaway.

By Blackman Eddy the breakaway had a six minute gap and the leaders looked comfortable.

Spectators gathered on Mount Hope and the first face they saw coming to the top was Giovanni Choto - dancing on his pedals to the roaring approval of the crowd while wining the station prize in honour of Rhett Reyes and Dwayne Arnold.

Twelve seconds later Allen Castillo makes it over the top and then some six minutes later - is the main pack - still in no hurry to chase.

Alfrain Supaul - looking not quite hype - was dropped at the foot of the hill labouring over the top. As they approach Esperanza - the lead pair are back together with Giovanni Choto on the pace. A huge crowd awaited them in Cayo and at the halfway point, Choto is the first across Hawkesworth Bridge with a hometown crowd reception more than six minutes later, Hernan Ochaeta of Santino and Erwin Middleton of Capital City passed through.

And as they headed out, the main pack was heading in led by Team Benny's riders attack somewhere around Georvgeville on the way back we caught up with Allen Castillo who is obviously deflated - he has lost contact - and we have a brand new configuration.

It's a solo flight as Giovanni Choto is the sole leader - powering through the hills with relative ease - as bystanders cheer him on at Unitedville the solo run continues, Choto now a man on a mission and the crowds cheer and throw water at him. He even got bathed in petals.

Coming down Mount Hope he is in prime descending form. Coming around Dead Man Curve - choto is a lone figure still with a 6 minute lead. But the word is out that the chase is on with the main peloton whipping around the turn. At the Belmopan cutoff - the chase group of 24 riders is led by Benny's Mexican import Carlos Lopez, in the yellow shoes - and the time at Belmopan was down to under give minutes.

The chase continues in earnest with Lopez, the 2009 champion on the front - as thin line of riders try to keep up with the torrid pace at mile 46.

Meanwhile Choto remains in the lead on the run through St. Matthew's - the chase still over four minutes behind him. Across Beaver Dam Bridge, Carlos Lopez remains at the front of the chase group - is the lead at mile 33 and Choto - visibly under more duress - remains focused, a determined grimace on his face.

At Democracia choto is the first across the line and some four minutes later while the main peloton still has Benny's riders and the rest of riders seem content to sit back.

Carlos Lopez remains on the lead of the chase group but no other team seems willing to lend a helping a hand. Around mile 23 Choto is in time trial mode - hunched over his handle.

At Rockville - Choto is moving visibly slower and the official timekeeper says it is now three minutes thirty two seconds. The chase is obviously now disorganized.

At Hattieville - Choto seems weakened but remains in form, while the lead over this chase group is reported to be under three minutes - Mexican Donicetti Vasquez, Herman Requena, Richard Troyer and Gregory Lovell.

Around mile 14 and just about two minutes behind the runaway Choto the chase group of four is still trying to catch up. A round mile 12, Giovanni pushes on.

Around mile 11, the lead is now 1:56 and Giovanni will need all the refreshment he can get around mile 9 Giovanni searches for the extra energy.

Searching for the extra energy - and the blazing sun taking its tool, Choto bathes himself. At Burdon Canal Bridge with the time between a minute and a half and two minutes - Belizeans are hoping and praying that Choto can hold on - on his slender shoulder ride the hopes of a nation.

At Faber's Road Choto is barely hanging unto the lead. At the entrance to Belize -= Choto takes another station prize given in memory of Rhett Reyes.

The flags are waiting for him as he comes through the cemetery and into the city the support swelles for this lone Belizean rider. And at the roundabout, Choto only has a few more miles to go. Miles during which there are Belizeans there to cheer him along for every pedal stroke.

And he is left or tide into the city like a conqueror - the crowds thronging the sidewalk and on Princess Margaret Drive with only about a mile left, Choto hunches over his handles, visibly fatigued but still holding up.

Choto looks dead on his pedals. And at memorial park he raises his hands in victory, the first Belizean to do so in 6 years - and just makes it across the line before he drops forward on his handles - and incredible powerful ride.

Giovanni Choto, winner, 2012 Cross Country
"That is the prettiest thing. I just want to thank the team and thank God most of all for not allowing those cramps to catch me."

Jules Vasquez
"But how did you have the power to do this?"

Giovanni Choto, winner, 2012 Cross Country
"We were training hard for this race and the team knows that I was training hard. But I think that the team did a big work for not allowing anyone to bridge across to me. They did an excellent job."

"What was your confidence level coming into this race?"

Giovanni Choto, winner, 2012 Cross Country
"Sometimes I felt like weak, but then I thought of the $15,000 that is on the line, so I want that."

And so did Brandon Cattouse who is the first in the sprint for second, Darnell Barrow is third and Byron Pope is fourth:

Brandon Cattouse, Second Place
"I am not really a solo man like Giovanni who can run from the start of the race to the finish like that. Maybe I can run the last 10-12 miles in the race and hold out the crowd. I knew if I came with them to sprint - I had the legs because I felt good in the whole race to win the sprint."

Jules Vasquez
"You have to be satisfied all the same with your second place winning."

Brandon Cattouse, Second Place
"Yes I am really satisfied this year. It was my best winning in the cross country. Last year I was 9th and this year I was 2nd. Next year I will try for the win."

Darnell Barrow, 3rd
"To be truthful I was disappointed because Team Santino had the most men in the peloton today. So it was very easy to organized and chase and have one man sitting for the sprint, but nobody didn't want to communicate together, so I had to try on my own."

Jules Vasquez
"So even with all that man power you all were unable to organize and bridge it?"

Darnell Barrow, 3rd
"We had the man power down. But we couldn't organize to catch Giovanni. I guess everybody was pleased with him running by himself being a Belizean at the front. I had to try to settle for second or third."

Jules Vasquez
"How did you think of Giovanni's ride?"

Darnell Barrow, 3rd
"He rode with heart today. Congrats to him, he rode very brave today. He was the man today, definitely."

Byron Pope, 4th
"We didn't expect him to go all the way but he just proves to us that he can do it. He is a journey man and he did it from Cayo coming back to Belize City all by himself. I really respect Giovanni Choto for that."

Jules Vasquez
"Now I know that your team mates had made some attacks to try and bridge the gap particularly around mile 10. But why were you all unable to get across?"

Byron Pope, 4th
"Outside of Hattieville, about 8 of us made a separation from the peloton and I try to get the guys to come along to try to organize a chase so we can get across to Giovanni Choto because he was in the striking distance but the guys didn't want to come through. The group just re-join and its was a lot of talks and stop and go. That's the reason why we couldn't catch Giovanni Choto."

Jules Vasquez
"You finish 4th, that's you best finish in the cross country yet. Are you pleased or disappointed with the outcome?"

Byron Pope, 4th
"I am not really pleased with the position because I came to win this race. I didn't come to finish 4th or 2nd and I will be back next year maybe even better to try to win this cross country."

But this year - to see three Belizeans on the podium, one with the garland around his neck - was enough for long denied cycling fans to have a moment they could relish. What will next year bring? We can only hope for a repeat.

And there's more coming up from Choto - as we had a one on one interview with him this morning. He'll tell us how he's been recovering and putting the victory into perspective.

Choto Says He Never Expected To Ride Into City Alone

At the top of the newscast you saw the news about Giovanni Choto - the 23 year old winner of the 84th. Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic.

He is one of five Choto brothers who entered the race - and remarkably, three of them finished in the top ten: Giovanni was first, Peter was ninth and Jose was tenth - Rafael and Daniel did not finish.

Still, they are the most dominant family in cycling - and Giovanni attributes it to their competitive training regimen. They all live close to each other in Cayo and all train together. Choto told us that right now, though, training is the last thing on his mind, he's trying to recover from a race that even surprised him in how it played out. Here's what he had to say when he sat down in our studio this morning:..

Jules Vasquez
"Since Saturday, what has happened?"

Giovanni Choto - 2012 Cross Country Champion
"Well, I mostly stay at home, and I feel tired. I want to recover."

Jules Vasquez
"What is your body feeling like right now?"

Giovanni Choto
"Well, I am slightly dehydrated, and a bit burnt out, but I'll recover by the weekend, hopefully."

Jules Vasquez
"Is this how you usually feel after a race, or was this an especially exhausting race for you?"

Giovanni Choto
"This one was really exhausting because I ran for too long. I don't usually do that."

Jules Vasquez
"I spoke to Mike Lewis, and he was saying that a large part of victory depends on luck. Success in the cross country depends on luck. Do you feel that you had luck with you on Saturday?"

Giovanni Choto
"Yes, I am sure that I had luck, and I thank God for it, and I am sure that my team worked hard to allow no one to bridge across to me because if someone came across to me - well, I was already out so. They would have let me go, so I just thank God for the luck, and to my team for working so hard for me."

Jules Vasquez
"Was that the game plan when you all broke away at Mile 7? Was that the plan for you to shoot ahead, or were your legs just feeling good?"

Giovanni Choto
"I was feeling good, and when the attacks happened, I ended up in the front, so I decided to take the chance because I had to go for some of the station prizes. You can't just make everything go away."

Jules Vasquez
"Is it your greatest ride ever?"

Giovanni Choto
"Yes, that is my biggest race. I think that it is the biggest race for any Belizean to win. And I just hope that next year, we come back and a Belizean wins it again. It doesn't have to be me, but a next Belizean. I already got it once, and I wanted It just once, so I am happy enough already."

Jules Vasquez
"When you were coming to Cayo, did you fear that just like what happened in 2006, you'll be caught."

Giovanni Choto
"Well, I thought that I would have been caught because It's too far. I wasn't expecting to reach the end. I went saying that I just hopefully, I reach the next station prize, all the way until I ended up reaching Belize. When I reached Belize - I don't know - I was happier than ever."

Jules Vasquez
"Certainly, on the way back, you saw the time gap going down. I remember by Hattieville, it was as little as 2 minutes, from as many as 7 minutes. Were you concerned then that was it, and you had a good race, and that they'll now catch you?"

Giovanni Choto
"That's exactly what I had in my mind. I thought that was it. When it went from 2 minutes, and in the 1 minute and change, I already thought that I was caught."

Jules Vasquez
"So, how do you explain the fact that you weren't ever caught? What could have gone wrong in the pack that - did they never really organize an effective chase against you?"

Giovanni Choto
"Maybe, they must have started slowing down, and the gap was already close. So, they must have wanted the next man chase to allow them to rest, reach fresh, and attack when they caught me. They may have slowed down, and I wasn't slowing down. I was just steady. So, they gave it to me, and I had to take it."

Jules Vasquez
"Explain what was your ride with Allen Castillo like in terms of him riding with you all the way back - he got all the way to Georgeville. Why did you eventually abandon him?"

Giovanni Choto
"Well, Allen and I were working evenly. I think that Allen's problem, because Allen is very strong, and I was glad that I got away with Allen because he was willing to work. I think his problem was that I didn't see him eating much. I was eating a lot and drinking a lot of fluids, and I didn't see him doing that. Cross Country gets you nervous, you get the break; he must have gotten the break and wasn't thinking about that. I did tell him to eat more, but maybe it was too late because that was more down the road."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you prepared now that you will be a national figure? Wherever you go, people will recognize you. They will shout for you; they think of you as a hero."

Giovanni Choto
"Well, I don't know. I will just continue to train for the rest of the races and train harder because I already see that we can win big races. So, we have to train harder and take it more seriously, and try to win the other races coming up."

Jules Vasquez
"Did you feel encourage by the fact that the first Belizean across the line gets $15,000?"

Giovanni Choto
"Well, I was thinking about that, but what really made me feel like pushing was when the big crowds of people on the road were cheering me on. It really makes you feel like pushing to reach that finishing line because you know that everybody wants a Belizean to win. I wanted a Belizean to win also, and it came my way, so I was happier."

Jules Vasquez
"You were the Belizean. So, did you get a little bit of goosebumps? I know that when I saw the race coming into the city on tape, and I saw you by the Cemetery Road, and you see all the people with the flags. Aat that point you must have been completely exhausted, but you got a little bit of energy from the crowd."

Giovanni Choto
"Yes, you get a little bit of energy from the crowd because your mind tries to push you more. Your muscles are already tired, but your mind pushes you more."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you have anything planned to do with your winnings?"

Giovanni Choto
"Well, I was building my house, and I am not finished yet. That's supposed to give me a big hand to help me finish my house. I'll help my mother, father, and my family to allow us to get along a little bit better."

And though he doesn't look a day over 16, the 23 year old Choto is married and has a two year old child. He works with his brother Jose in a bike shop in Santa Elena. They all got their start tiding from another Choto brother, Joaquin.

Choto finished the cross country in six hours, 16 minutes and 45 seconds, which is eight minutes slower than last years' time. He was two minutes and 12 seconds ahead of the main pack.

Channel 7

#435411 - 04/11/12 09:01 AM Re: Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Belizean Cyclist, Giovanni Choto, brings the garland back home in 84th Cross Country race

Good Evening, I’m James Adderley and this is Sports Monday.


We take you immediately to the start of the 84th Annual Cross Country Cycle Classic which blasted off from in front of Leslie’s Imports at 6:00 a.m. on Holy Saturday with some 73 elite Belizean riders and 7 foreigners in search of fame and fortune. The national road champion, Byron Pope is posted as the #1 seed—but make no doubt about it they’re all here to start this 140 mile journey to San Ignacio and back. And so with the blast of the starting gun, this grueling cycle race begins and personally I would like to congratulate everyone who completed this race at anytime. This is not a walk in the park. At mile 9, we find this trio of Giovannu Choto, Allen Castillo and Sherman Thomas in full control of the pace having executed the perfect break out of the pack. This on the road alliance might not have bothered the big boys in the pelathon but it should have because being united by one singular aim they had been transformed into a mighty force.

In fact around mile 21, Choto, Castillo and Thomas had extended the lead to 2 minutes 23 seconds.

Of course this trio was well aware of the large chase group in pursuit led by Team Santino who had no rider up front. In addition they felt this lead was in cycling terms manageable. Around mile 40, Sherman Thomas began to exhibit signs of struggle and could not hang on to the pace so Choto and Castillo had no other option than to make it a 2 man lead. And as they zipped past the Belmopan Junction, this was the sight that greeted them. People from all walks of life came out to express support. AtMountHope, Giovanni Choto displayed strength going up the hill—grabbing the station prizes easily—Allen Castillo was obviously in trouble. Now here comes the main pelathon some 7½ minutes later with Jose Choto providing excellent blocking for his runaway brother and teammate.

Meanwhile, when the lead duo rolls into San Ignacio over the famedHawkesworthBridge, it’s Giovanni Choto of Western Spirit in the lead role with Allen Castillo of Benny’s Megabytes still showing signs of struggle.

As the race rolls into Ontario, the solitary figure of Young Choto commands the scene since Allen Castillo simply cannot hang on. A look at the back shows Hernan Ochaeta and Erwin Middleton try to pry on escape put of the pack but it would be short-lived. So the chase to catch Giovanni Choto begins in earnest and the man on the pace is the Mexican import and 2010 Cross Country Champion, Carlos Lopez. All the big boys unfortunately seem content to follow his wheel. All this while, Giovanni continues his miracle run and at St. Matthews Village, he’s beginning to believe he can get the job done on this solo flight nursing a four minute lead.

At Hattieville, Giovanni Choto is now only 1 minute 39 seconds ahead of a chase group of 4 but is buoyed by the fact that the Win is within striking distance. The chase 4 features Gregg lovell, Richard Troyer, Carlos Lopez and Donecetti Vasquez and they can see Choto’s number on his back. a couple seconds later, the other chase back with Darnell Barrow, Byron Pope and Brandon Cattouse shows up. At mile 8, two important facts come into view—the Mexican, Carlos Lopez is no longer willing to carry the crowd across and the other Belizean hopefuls must now engineer their own run out Giovanni Choto. It’s a 9 man unit that features Byron Pope, Richard Troyer, Brandon Cattouse, Robert Stewart, Donizette Vasquez, Shane Vasquez and Gregg Lovell. Around Leslie’s Imports, some 10 more riders have amalgamated with the chase bunch. Nevertheless, the moment belongs to Giovanni Choto as he is uncontested at the roundabout into Central American Boulevard. At marine parade, Choto now knows he has the garland in the bag with no challenges in sight. And we salute Giovanni Choto of Western Spirit as he wins his 1st Cross Country in 6 hours, 16 minutes 45 seconds and the 1st by a Belizean in 6 years.

2 minutes 12 seconds later, we have the battle for 2nd place and it’s Brandon Cattouse of C-Ray grabbing this position in impressive fashion, forcing Darnell Barrow of Santino’s into 3rd, Byron pope of Benny’s megabytes takes 4th and Gregory Lovell of Santino’s rounds out the top 5. Jamaican American, Tony Taylor takes 6th, Donezetti Vasquez the Mexican 7th, Quinton Hamilton 8th, Peter Choto 9th and Jose Choto 10th.


Giovanni Choto

Giovanni Choto, Winner, Cross Country Cycling Classic

“I mi feel tired but I mi think about the win and I push myself. And I thank the team and I thank my family and everybody weh push me. Till when I reach Belize city dah then I think I mi wah win. I sure that Belize got a lot of talent; they have Byron Pope, they have Darnell Barrow; everybody but Belizeans have to work. Foreigners noh work.”


Brandon Cattouse

Brandon Cattouse, 2nd Place

“Well Cross Country is an endurance race; it’s really long. If Choto dah the kind of guys weh could go and run the whole race like weh ih do today. I can’t run the whole race. I might feel bad. I have to put more training like that kind of training to be competitive like that fi run so far. I wouldn’t have done anything different. This is the way I planned out the race and it came out how I planned it; just that we didn’t catch back Giovanni Choto in time. For the sprint I was watching Donezetti Vasquez from Chetumal, he rides with Depredadores. I know he dah wah really fast guy; I race with him the past three weeks and he’s in really good shape right now. So I follow fi he wheel on the end and I know that wah bump deh really up more and if I surprise then before the bump I know they never mi wah ketch mi back.”


Darnell Barrow, 3rdPlace

Darnell Barrow

“It was a really good race today; I can’t complain, but I need help. There was no team support for me today. I definitely think Santino’s team responded late today, but definitely to me I think we had the strongest team because we had five guys down the stretch but nobody didn’t want to communicate and ride together so it was man for themselves.”


Byron Pope

Byron Pope, 4th Place

“Our strategy didn’t work to the fullest. We had a man in the early break which going up gave us the upper hand in the race but the man faltered a little bit and that’s what caused us to really chase in the hills and it really burns us out for a little while noh. So my teammate being dropped really changed the situation in the race because my team is the only team that’s willing to put out a chase all the rest of teams just sit around and try to tag along for the ride.”

Channel 5

Choto's Cleaned Up with Station Prizes

Last night, we told you all about Giovanni Choto's historic cross country ride, his fifteen thousand dollar first place cash prize and what he plans to do with the money.

But, what we didn't mention is that the 23 year old also won 78 Station Prizes - which is a record. The previous record was 41 held by Guatemalan cyclist Luis Macu in his cross-country ride about ten years ago.

Of course, Choto also had more to win: this year's race featured a record 101 Station prizes.

64 of those 78 prizes are in cash or gift certificates totaling $9,225.00. The largest were three five hundred dollar prizes.

The other 14 non-cash prizes run the gamut from the pricey - a cow donated by Cuello's Distillery at La Democracia, to the priceless, a carrot cake given by Cakes by Karla at the Belmopan cutoff.

As first place finisher, Choto also got two return tickets to San Pedro on Tropic Air, three return tickets to Caye Caulker on san Pedro Belize Express, an overnight stay at the Blue Tang Inn in San Pedro, and lunch for two at Fido's in San Pedro.

For his second place finish, Brandon Cattouse got three thousand dollars, and third place finisher Darnell Barrow won two thousand one hundred dollars.

Channel 7


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