A Belizean Gets The Garland
And while we can't yet celebrate a commercial oil find, this weekend patriots and sports fans had something to cheer about as Belizean Darnell Barrow won the 85th Cross Country Cycling Classic in an exciting sprint where he bested two foreign riders.
And while that was the end, we start our coverage at the beginning where Darnell Barrow was not among anyone's top ten contenders.
Daniel Ortiz reports how he got from the back of the pack to the first across the line:
Daniel Ortiz Reporting
86 riders lined up at the starting line for the 85 running of the Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic.
But first they dealt with the formalities. The cycling officials introduced the 2012 Cross Country Champ, Geovanni Choto, and then paid respects to Wallace Donald Matura, the recreational rider, cycling official, and avid cycling fan who passed away 3 days earlier.
Included in the lineup are 8 Mexican, 4 American friends, and 2 Guatemalans. Of these foreigners, 3 are past champions, and in the field of the local riders, 4 are also past champions.
And at a few minutes after 6 a.m., they move off, Geovanni Choto ahead the group in his customary lead as last year's champion.
Heading into Hattieville, this is what the peloton looks like for this year's Cross Country. Travelling at almost 30 miles per hour, all the top riders look fresh, enjoying the brisk early pace.
The station prize at the Hattieville Police Station is taken by 2 time champ Ernest Meighan, easily, and uncontested by the other riders close on his wheel.
The race past this point is mostly uneventful because all the riders are kept closely together in one big group, as the major teams tease out each others' strategies and decide when to deploy their foreign riders.
At Rockville, it's Jairo Campos of Benny's Megabytes who takes that station prize, again with main peloton close behind him.
Then in the village of Tea Kettle, the first signs of competition start to show when 2 Mexicans break clear of the main field, Juan Pablo Magallanes of Benny Megabytes, and Luis Pulido Narango of Team C-Ray.
At 3 Flags, the same duo is on their way to Cayo, trying to separate further from the main peloton, which is less than a minute behind them.
As race heads toward Georgeville, it's still Magallanes and Narango, who are enjoying a lead of a little over a minute.
At the halfway point at the San Ignacio Bridge, Narango takes the prize, and Magallanes is close on his wheel. The record time to Cayo, set in 2009, remains untouched by this year's participants,while the Main Peloton, led Team Santinos, makes their pass at the roundabout just seconds behind.
As they head through Unitedville on the return, there is a new configuration. We now have Guatemalan Allejandro Padilla, riding for Team Santinos, Luis Pullido Narango, and the 2009 Cross Country Champ, Carlos Lopez, the Mexican riding for Team Bennys trying to separate themselves from the main pack.
But when we reach Roaring Creek, the pack is together once again, and this time, it's American John Delong of Team Veloshine, taking the prize.
At around mile 44, the configuration changes once again: it is now Peter Choto of Belikin Western Spirits, Gregory Lovell of Telemedia, and American John Delong who's trying to make a run for it.
10 miles later, they are caught by a group of 6 chasers including Mexican Florencio Ramos Torres, riding for C-Ray, Brandon Cattouse, the C-Ray favorite, Jose Choto of Western Spirits, Carlos Lopez, Alejandro Padillo from Team Santinos, and Juan Pablo Magallanes.
By this time, the main peloton is being led by American Scottie Weiss of Team Veloshine.
Around mile 28, the breakaway of 9 is reportedly a minute and a half ahead of the chase group
And by the time they reach Rockville, It's Juan Pablo Magallanes of Team Benny's, as he and his team mate Carlos Lopez, along with Alejandro Padilla try to separate from that 9.
Just outside of Hattieville, the lead 3 are caught, and it once again becomes 9 riders in the lead.
At the station prize in Hattieville, Carlos Lopez takes it, but he's being closely followed by Brandon Cattouse and Gregory Lovell.
And by the time the race reaches Mile 14, Carlos Lopez breaks away from Lopez and Lovell, attempting to fly solo.
At mile 10 Carlos Lopez is still in the lead, but he is only 25 seconds ahead of some 20 riders who are chasing him. They are being led by Team C-Ray.
One mile later, Lopez holds on to that lead, but as you see in the background, the chase group is only 30 seconds behind him.
At mile 7 Lopez has been caught by those 19 riders, and Kenroy "Smokes" Gladden steps up to win the station prize.
At the Faber's Road Junction, Carlos Lopez takes that prize, but the lead group is now 20-riders strong, rolling into the city like a tremendous machine, an unprecedented occurrence in recent races.
As they enter the Lord Ridge Cemetery, the defending Champion, Giovanni Choto, attacks and wins the station prize, but he doesn't get any sort of breathing room because different riders are attacking constantly. After all, the finish-line is - in a manner of speaking - right around the corner.
On Princess Margaret Drive, Guatemalan Alejandro Padilla from Team Santinos turns it up and takes the prize at the Saint Thomas Street intersection. Again, he's being chased by 19 riders who are determined to win.
Coming down Princess Margaret drive, the final stretch, three men surge ahead in the sprint…
But Darnell Barrow clinches the sprint in dramatic fashion and takes first place in this year's Cross Country. It is a big win for him, and an even bigger one for Team Santinos. Their manager explained how the managed to recover after the rider they were riding for, Marlon Castillo, went down in a major spill early in the race.
Hon. Santino Castillo - Manager, Team Santinos
"The truth is if I had lost this one, the previous 3 would have been meaningless. This is what you call the big plum. You know when you get a bag of plums and you eat the little ones first, this is the big one you leave for last. So this is the race we wanted to win. Our first option was Marlon. He had a bad accident at Camalote. They're doing reconstruction over there and he fell on some big stones, broke his color bone and his arm. So, we had to go to plan B. when we were coming to town I had 4 riders left and I felt that Darnell Barrow had the best option, so I told him, 'Darnell you have to bring it home,' and he delivered."
Darnell Barrow said that he rode a good race, and had to recover mentally when he team mate went down.
Darnell Barrow - 2013 Cross Country Champion
"When I saw Marlon fell, the whole team dropped back to see if he would have gotten up but he didn't get up. So I decided - Jermaine told me, 'You have to ride strong and stay at the front.'So I did that."
"Everybody told me that Darnell didn't put in enough work. Did you do some secret training?"
"Yes I did. I would like to thank Quinton Hamilton; he and I did some tremendous training after Belmopan Classic."
"When Darnell came to service, I asked him how he felt and he said, 'boss, I can win it'. So I said, 'Well Darnell it's yours,' and I told the 3 other riders to work for Darnell. Bring him to the tape and he will work for the sprint. I had belief that he could do it because he had belief that he could do it. He believed in himself and obviously it was proven."
"In each break, we had a representative from the team, so that gave me a good chance to sit down and just relax. From mile 16 to 10, all I did was just follow until I saw the Belikin team start to attack. I just move - move - move so I can conserve my energy to the end, I watch them bring me to the tape, I watch the team players for Brandon Cattouse and Gregory Lovell, the real sprinters. To the end, I saw that those guys were falling behind and I know if I pushed hard, I could win the sprint. It feels great."
John Delong - 3rd Place, 2013 Cross Country Classic
"I'm really strong in the 100 miles, but today at the Hattieville/Barrel Boom junction, I was feeling that extra 100 to 40. At Barrel Boom junction, I thought I wasn't going to finish real big. The wind was really blowing, and you just have to do the best you can out there. The worst though was that there some sprinters in the group that were able to get around me, so what can you do? I just dug as hard as I could, just hoping that line would come soon, but these guys got right around me."
It was an impressive race, where a number of wildcards could have been pulled, but it played out that another Belizean keeps the Garland home.
Hon. Santino Castillo
"This is Darnell Barrow's biggest race. The Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic is the biggest race, not only in Belize, but in the Hemisphere. When you win this you're the king at the top of the hill. He will be called champion for the rest of the year - up to next year until the next one."
And we apologize for the audio difficulties we experienced at the start of that story. We urge you to view it when the news repeats at 10:00 tonight, 6:00 tomorrow morning or at noon tomorrow.
And, later on we'll have much more from Darnell Barrow as Jules Vasquez has a sit down interview with the champ. He'll tell us how he rode the fastest cross country any Belizean has ever ridden.
How Did Darnell Do It? He Almost Didn't! On Saturday, Darnell Barrow wrote his name into history when he won the 85thCross Country. And while he's the new champion, the truth is no one picked Darnell Barrow to win the 85th Cross Country Cycling Classic.
He'd been on the rocks with his team, his bike frame is busted up, and he hadn't been having the best year training. So, the 24 year old rider from Coral Grove almost picked up and went to Cancun with his mom this Easter. But he didn't; he hung in there and made it to the starting line - even though he almost got late, arriving just two minutes before the start.
Sounds kind of harum scarum to see that it preceded the ride of his life. But happenstance is how he got into cycling in the first place when he started riding on, of all things, a beach cruiser! Today he came to our studio to tell us how he went from that humble beginning to cruising across the finish line first after he rode the whole race like a shadow:
Darnell Barrow - 2013 Cross Country Champion
"The feeling, the feeling is still unbelievable. That is the feeling, I still have to deal with it, and I still don't believe that I finally pulled it off. It's overwhelming."
"Now, you're nationally known, everyone knows who you are, and everybody wants some of your time, or just to watch them or say their name."
"Well it's a great feeling. I finally get to feel how the all - past champions feel, so I guess I have that now, I have - I get that feeling, I get that."
"Your name is now written in history, but when you did you start riding?"
"I started on beach-cruiser, my same beach-cruiser I went to primary school with. I have my friends from Coral Grove that used to go out - they had racer bikes before me, and I go and I follow them on beach-cruiser, all the way to Rock View and back. I decided that I would get a meter because I would want to know how fast I'm going. I put a meter on the handle bar, do 18 mile an hour 19 an hour, I took right in, then my uncle said 'boy, I will get you a racer bike'. Kenneth Butler gave me a frame, I set it up and I start to ride it on that."
Jules VasquezDarnell Barrow
"Now you have ridden the second fastest time in this race, more than that it was against adverse winds and this is the fastest race a Belizean has ever ridden. First of all how did you do it and second: how does it make you feel?"
"Well how it do it is just riding smart, I didn't exert too much energy. I didn't try jump or go on any break away. That is not necessary. At mile 17, the whole group came back together so to me then, I said well the race just started now because everyone is back. So, for me, I to just ride smart, and just pick the move that going or go with any move that goes. Anybody that tries to break away I must be there to win. Coming into the city was very intense because the journey of the race is a long race and the speed that we were coming in was very frightening, how comes this race is riding so fast, and we're coming to the finish. So, you're thinking a lot and that gives you a little rush, 'man, it's happening right here, this is it, do or die.' So coming on to the finish line that is when the desperation start to happen with the stronger guys and the weaker guys coming on to the line, so therefore you just need to position yourself at the right spot before the tape, before the sprint start. That is what I did, I just moved up, moved up, wait a little, see what's happening make sure that no one escaped, and when the line came, I did my part."
"How did you prepare for the sprint and how did you know when to strike because in sprint all of it is time."
"The Friday we had our team meeting, our coach told us that from the pedestrian - from the bump to the finish line is 160 meters and normally we Belizeans like to sprint maybe the last 100 meters or last 75 meters that is how we sprint. So, from I cleared the bump I knew that I had to be at the top fifth position to win this sprint. I can't be no more than fifth, sixth seventh eight ninth, I had to be up there in the top to win this sprint."
"How did you see your strength as compare to them?"
"I knew that I had a little bit more energye because coming to the sprint I had Brandon Cattouse, Gregory Lovell and the young boy Justin in front of me. When the Mexican guy rose up on the bike, I saw that that was the move that was going to happen. I also saw that these guys weren't moving as fast as I was, coming up, so I decided that this is it now, it's time for me to make my move I cannot wait no more. It's now or never, from now to the line, everything; no holding back."
"Were you surprised that you were the first to cross the line?"
"I was surprised, I mean I saw that tape and I said I could win this, an extra strength just came over me to let me just push."
"What's the difference in finishing 3rd as you have before and finishing 1st?"
"Well I have the garland around my neck; this is the difference right here"
"I mean out there in the field, what - knowing what you do now, what does it take to win the race?"
"Well I guess every year is a step. Every year, you need to learn new things, so for me to win now I guess I'm ahead of other guys,that might know more or less about how to prepare to win a Cross Country. So, I have that mindset that what I need to do to win a next Cross Country in the future."
"You weren't the golden boy or the chosen one on Team Santinos."
"That means that I don't have anyone looking at me, following me. I rode the race without any worry about who is holding me wheel; I rode the race at ease."
"So the conventional thinking is that you can't win this race unless you have an entire team working for you, but how you are explaining how you won this race, is almost like you were operating like a shadow. You just looked on the men and you just move with those."
"Exactly, that was my plan and I succeeded."
At 5:46:49, Darnell's ride was six minutes off the record set by American Ryan Bauman in 2008. And so, his finish becomes the fastest winning Cross Country ride for a Belizean ever. But he didn't come from nowhere; he was third last year and fifth in 2011. He's also finished 10th. and 13th in previous Cross Country Races.
And while foreigners came second and third, a Belizean Justin Williams form the Belizean Linkup team was fourth while Greg Lovell form Team Telemedia was fifth.