Shane Vasquez rides into the history books
There was no shortage of bad news over the last four days but when future historians recount the happenings of Easter 2006, only one event will be remembered: the heroic ride of Shane Vasquez. In five hours and fifty-eight minutes of superhuman effort the twenty-seven year old from Cayo erased four years of national fustration and returned the Holy Saturday Cross Country Crown to the head of a Belizean cyclist. James Adderley has the story from bugle to garland ... and beyond.
James Adderley, Reporting
Continuity demands linkage, so we start over story by taking you back to a year ago. The American wearing this beautiful garland and holding a trophy is William Elliston, moments after emerging as the 2005 annual Cross Country Cycle Champion.
In the seventy-eighth edition of this Holy Saturday classic, Elliston hopes to become only the second American to win two titles and in back to back fashion at that a la Chris Harkey style of 2003-2004.
At the six a.m. start nevertheless, Belizean are focused on the rising star of Marlon Castillo, praying this local product could bring back the title to the homeland missing in action since 2002.
In fact, ninety-six Belizeans are suited up against twenty-four foreigners who have claimed eight of the last ten championships; conceding only two to Ernest Meighan in 1997 and the other in 2001.
Kindly note these two riders in front of the pelothon at the start. They’re the ones to watch, which asks the question: does greatness follow the script all the time?
A hundred and twenty riders begin the quest for Holy Saturday glory. They will travel a total of hundred and forty miles from Belize City to San Ignacio and back for the finish inside the Marion Jones Sporting Complex.
Of course destiny sometimes has its own ideas and the victims of the variables in cycling would certainly wish they were not caught up in a major spill less than five miles into the 2006 race.
Meet Adriano Campo of Team Cancun hailing from Mexico after executing the breakout outside of Hattieville on his way to a thousand dollar prize at mile twenty-four.
Fortunately or unfortunately the Mexican Campo finds himself with a back wheel puncture, which automatically leads to a change in the front of the race.
Around mile thirty-five we now have a six-man lead: Peter Choto and Ron Vasquez of Cayo; two Megabytes riders, Darnell Barrow, Byron Pope, and Sherman Thomas of Belmopan; and Carlos Gabriel Hernandez of Team Guatemala.
Through the Roaring Creek area, this uneasy alliance between six Belizean Junior riders and the visiting Guatemalan begins to show signs of stain, especially after Darnell Barrow grabbed three station prizes in a row.
Excited to be on his training ground, Peter Choto of Cayo loses focus and falls unaided ... this certainly hurt his game.
Next to fall is Sherman Thomas and on this wet asphalt slip is a go. Thomas would nevertheless return.
By the time the race arrives at Mount Hope, it’s a new configuration with Giovanni Choto, Jose Choto, Peter Choto, Ron Vasquez, Darnell Barrow, and Guatemalan Carlos Hernandez.
At the halfway mark its Jose Choto grabbing the win two hours forty minutes and thirty-nine seconds, followed by the Guatemalan as the lead four swings back to head the other way. Needless to say, the chase group is only three minutes away, which must be manageable from their perspective.
Through Roaring Creek the lead four remains in control of the pace. However, at mile thirty-five the re-amalgamation occurs and now we have a brand new ballgame on its way to Belize City.
A new Guatemalan steps up in the person of Juan Carlos Hernandez and tries to run all the way to town, but Shane Vasquez decides to put it all into this move and streaks away from the chase pack.
Here is Shane Vasquez overtaking Hernandez at mile twenty without even looking for help. At Hattieville, it’s still Shane Vasquez of Western Spirit in time trial mode. At mile eight we can see that this Cayo rider intend to run all the way to the finish line. The run holds up all the way into the track and the hometown crowd applauds the appearance of this Belizean rider.
However, it’s not over till it over. Luis Santizo, Jose Robles, and Giovanni Choto enter the park with Shane boasting just a half a lap lead in a half a lap lead in a two-lap race.
Folks today it’s a perfect game plan being executed. Shane Vasquez hooks the final curve and now he knows the hard work has certainly paid off. He raises his arm in victory and the crowd roars. It’s been a long time coming indeed.
Meanwhile, the race for second place finds Jose Robles of Mexico riding for Guinness Seahawks sipping past Luis Santizo, the Guatemalan riding for M and M Engineering who finishes third, while seventeen year old Giovanni Choto of Cayo pulls up fourth.
Anthony Taylor, Jamaican riding for Malic’s, blasts the crowd for fifth; Gregory Lovell pulls up sixth; Ian Smith seventh; Leslie Sanchez takes eighth place for a second year in a row; Jesus Hernandez of Yucatan takes ninth place; while Dwight Lopez rounds out the top tenth.
Belizeans, today a prince become a king and Shane Vasquez, the new champion uses the Sub Umbra Floreo to give respect to the many fans who prayed for a Belizean to take back the title this year.
Shane Vasquez, Winner, Cross Country 2006
“Coming into the last thirty, twenty miles into Belize City, I looked round at the field and I said, but why do I have all this strength just sitting in the race all the way going up, all the way coming back. So I said, let me go out and see what I could do. If the team wants to be there with me they will chase me, but they really had to chase. I tried my best and I went out for it. I went out all out. Thanks, thanks for the support of the Belizean people who have really cheered me on to help motivate me to win this race today.”
“I kept saying your best chance to win a cross country was exactly what you did, running away and avoiding the sprint.”
“Well I know I am not that of a great sprinter, so I had to go out on my own and try to leave the sprinter on the road. I know if it had come down to a sprint then there is a chance least likely chance that I would have run the race, so I had to do it on a solo move, which I did today.”
We asked fourth place finisher Giovanni Choto if his attempts at the station prizes going into San Ignacio affected his overall finish.
Giovanni Choto, Fourth Place
“Yeah it affect it, but I mi want secure something too because I nevah mi too sure bout it.”
“This kinda success at this age is certainly unbelievable.”
“Well, weh I want do dah win a cross country too and I hope I get it one day.”
Jose Robles, Second Place
“We rode seventy kilometers, but it was very difficult because we experienced many spills. Some of the guys even got badly hurt, while others just rode off the road. I’m glad nothing worse happened, considering the lesson I learnt a few years ago.”
Tony Taylor, Fifth Place
“There was a lot of counter attacks and we try to cover it. We did manage to have it split, however, what’s his name? Shane Vasquez, he took off and everyone was riding tempo, seems like no one really wanted to catch him, which is fine because he’s Belizean—that’s great you know.”
“Can I ask you why didn’t you go and ...“
“Because we did all the chasing all day, we were wasted. It was only three of us and two left, so you know, what do we do, just chase and let everybody sit down? They were counterattacking us. As soon as we chase, they counterattack. We chased all day.”
“Tony, it’s the way of riding. You were carrying the jersey of the defending champion, so you had to be followed all day. But what about the other, the Guatemalan escaped from you after that.”
”The Guatemalan escaped. We let him slide because we know that if we went after him, everybody would come, so we try to keep the race calm by letting him go up the street, you know what I mean? I was a strategy, just let him go and then he’ll keep everything calm so that we would at least get a rest.”
Leslie Sanchez, riding for Comfort Air, finished for eighth for a second year in a row.
Leslie Sanchez, Eighth Place
“Well actually, around mile twenty-one, that was where the breakaway went. My teammate Quinton Hamilton, he attacked to get cross and while he was chasing, they brought him back and I countered off his attack and went cross to the breakaway.”
For the defending champion going in, a year made a world of difference.
William Elliston, 2005 Winner
“The plans definitely change a bit obviously with once they realize I was out of it. I think it kinda freed both Tony and Stephan up a little more to kinda follow some moves and try to initiate some moves to get a group clear. And that’s what they tried to do and they both made the big chase group coming in behind Shane. I was listening to the radio on the way in on the truck and I know it sounded like Stephan was trying to attack quite a bit to get away and sounded also like he was a pretty marked man, so that’s the unfortunate distinction we have, is being pretty well marked.”
“That’s the life of a champion. I want to ask you also Bill, you might not be able to come back to Belize to ride this particular race, however, the M and M Tour rules does allow you to come back. Will we be seeing a return of Bill Elliston to Belize?”
“If the M and M tour kinda reaches their goal of a U.C.I. sanctioned event, I’ll come back. Otherwise I don’t know that I’d come back because there’s just been a lot of headache dealing with getting me entered into the event this year, despite that I am still technically an amateur. And it just caused a lot of confusion and I am necessarily sure that I want to deal with some of that political stuff again. So if the tour gains the U.C.I. status I’d love to come back, it’s a great race. Otherwise, I can’t really see myself coming back for that.”
And so Belizeans, we might have seen the last of Bill Elliston.
Nevertheless folks, 2006 certainly belongs to Shane Vasquez and the Western Spirit Team. Congratulations guys, you’ve made Belize Proud. And we leave you with this image of Shane Vasquez receiving his bull and deservedly so, we want to say thank you to Kwame Scott for his assistance in this 2006 Cross Country Classic. I am James Adderley reporting for News Five.
Shane Vasquez will travel to El Salvador next week where he will join members of a team from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to compete in the eight day Vuelta a El Salvador road race.