BELIZEANS DOMINATE 24TH KREM NEW YEAR'S CLASSIC
Byron Pope (Elite) wins his first Krem Classic; Tarique Flowers (Junior) repeats; and Shalini Zabaneh (Women) wins her 5th Krem Classic
New Year's Day 2014 began with more heavy rains and overcast skies, as the 24th running of the Krem New Year's Day Cycling Classic got under way from the northern border for the Elite and U-23 riders, and from Orange Walk Town for the Female, Junior/Youth and Masters Cat 4/5 races, all heading for the finish line near the intersection of Central American Boulevard with Mahogany Street in Belize City. But by the time the cylists neared Ladyville, the sun was shining brightly and it remained clear skies and bright sunshine till the end of the race, and in fact for the rest of New Year's Day.
With a lucrative package of station prizes and finishing prizes, there were enough foreigners in the field of Elites - Americans, Mexicans and Guatemalans, for some local fans to be wary of all the "treasures" possibly leaving for foreign shores. But the era of team riding is now firmly entrenched in the cycling community, and the "spoils" are reportedly shared to some extent among team members. Nevertheless, race fans still instinctively root for our local boys, especially in the Krem Classic and the Cross Country, the two biggest races on the cycling calendar; it certainly adds to the spice of the race. And they were not disappointed yesterday.
65 of an original list of 73 cyclists started the Elite race at 9:00 a.m. from the northern border for the 97-mile ride to Belize City, and they included 7 Mexicans, 2 Guatemalans and 2 Americans. One of the Americans was Rainel Sanchez, reportedly a champion in Florida, who rode with the Bel-Cal cycling team, a team of Belizean born cyclists residing in California.
Aside from the many station prizes along the way, much attention was focused on the four $1,000.00 cash prizes, the first coming at San Roman in the Corozal District, and that was taken by young Joel Adan Borland of the Telemedia team out of Belize City. He was one of an early breakaway group of 7 riders that opened a small lead that eventually increased to a minute and twenty-two seconds at 2 miles outside of Orange Walk Town. That group included Joel Borland (Telemedia), Darnell Barrow (Smart), Deezan Spence (Western Spirit), Ruben Cano (Benny's Megabytes), Mexican Jose Gonzalez (Benny's Meg.), Nissan Arana (riding for Depredadores of Mexico) and Giovanni Lovell (Telemedia). The gap was closed considerably by the time they entered Orange Walk Town, where Deezan Spence (Western Spirit) took the second $1,000.00 cash prize at the Shell One Stop Station; but by the time they hit Mile 43, the chase peloton had caught up with the leaders.
Around Mile 39, another small breakaway occurred, with 6 riders - Darnell Barrow, Greg and Giovanni Lovell of Telemedia, Byron Pope and Mexican Carlos Lopez of Benny's, and unattached Mexican Juan Manuel Yapur; and they were being chased closely by Nissan Arana (Depredadores), Rainel Sanchez (Bel-Cal) and Quinton Hamilton (Smart).
By the time they reached Mile 25, the picture had changed somewhat, and it was a group of 5 - Byron Pope (Benny's Meg.), Mexican Carlos Lopez (Benny's Meg.), Giovanni Lovell (Telemedia), Herman "Hijo" Requena (Smart) and unattached Mexican Juan Manuel Yapur with a 2 minutes and 30 seconds lead over the chase peloton.
Up to that period of the race, there had been a number of lead changes, as evidenced by the station prize results, included Gregory "Bullet" Lovell (Telemedia), Herman "Hijo" Requena (Smart), Joel Borland (Telemedia), Nissan Arana (Depredadores), Deezan Spence (Western Spirit), Mexican Carlos Lopez (Benny's Meg.), unattached Mexican Juan Manual Yapur, and Byron Pope (Benny's Meg.)
There has been some discussion, and a bit of confusion about the developments nearing the climax of the race, as the cyclists made the last turn out of the Philip Goldson Highway at the Belcan roundabout and crossed the bridge for the home stretch. By that time, Byron Pope had already seized the two big station prizes of $1,000.00 each at the Maskall junction and the Kubuli corner in Ladyville. All city fans knew was that, as the cyclists came into view down the Boulevard stretch, it was Byron in front, and 3 others chasing. It's been a long time coming for Byron Pope, after many close finishes in both the Krem Classic and the Cross Country, and he raised both hands in relief and exultation as he triumphantly sailed across the finish line to the cheers of happy and satisfied fans who had come to witness the New Year's spectacle. Young Giovanni Lovell tried bravely, but could not overtake Byron's Mexican teammate Carlos Lopez, who claimed 2nd place.
The final top 20 finishers were: champion Byron Pope (Benny's Megabytes, 3:48:11); 2nd Carlos Lopez (MEX, Benny's Meg. ); 3rd Giovanni Lovell (Telemedia, 3:48:16 ); 4th Juan Manuel Yapur (MEX, unattached, 3:48:16); 5th Herman "Hijo" Requena (Smart, 3:52:42); 6th David Henderson, Jr. (Benny's Meg., 3:52:47); 7th Jose Anguiano-Gonzalez (Benny's Meg., st); 8th Manuel Ayala-Balam (MEX, Depredadores, 3:53:09); 9th Darnell Barrow (Smart, 3:53:15); 10th Gregory Lovell (Telemedia, st); 11th Rainel Sanchez (Bel-Cal, st); 12th Joeavin Leslie (Smart, st); 13th Phillip Leslie (unattached, st); 14th Deezan Spence (Western Spirits, st); 15th Dwight Lopez (Bel-Cal, st); 16th Dean Middleton (unattached, st); 17th Brandon Morgan (Benny's Meg., st); 18th Henry Moreira (unattached, st); 19th Roger Troyer (Western Spirit, st); 20th Cristian Alvarado-Lopez (GUA, Smart, st).
The 6 female cyclists who participated in this year's Krem New Year's Classic gave very good account of themselves, notably actually breaking away from the Juniors about an hour into the 50-mile race, which left Orange Walk Town at 9:30 a.m. And it looked quite interesting in the early going, with Kerah Eiley sharing the early station prizes with Alicia Thompson and Gabrielle Lovell. Kerah made a break for it on her own around Mile 20, but the Juniors were also chasing, and they aided the other females to catch up with her by Mile 16. And then, approaching Los Lagos, with the two Junior male riders pacing hard, Shalini made her move, breaking with them while the other females could not hold on. And that was the race. Shalini took all the station prizes from Los Lagos to the finish, coming in alone for her 5th Krem Classic championship. Veteran Marinette Flowers completed the journey, but did not figure in the prizes this time.
Top female finishers were: champion Shalini Zabaneh (Sagitun, 2:35:17); 2nd Gabrielle Lovell (Telemedia, 2:36:39); 3rd Alicia Thompson (Belize Bank, 2:36:39). Kerah Eiley was 4th.
14 Juniors took part in this year's Krem Classic, riding along with the Females and Masters 4/5 on the 50-mile journey from Orange Walk to Belize City. Station prizes were shared in the early going, as Devin Azueta (Cayo High Road) and Delon Gentle (BECOL) took the prizes up to Maskall junction; but after that the race was between Zahir Figueroa and Tarique Flowers, last year's Junior champion, who had suffered an early puncture but managed to get back in the race. Zahir took the station prizes from Burrell Boom cutoff to the airport cutoff; but thereafter all station prizes belonged to Tarique, who powered his way ahead of Zahir to the finish line for his second consecutive Krem Classic victory.
Top 3 Juniors were: champion Tarique Flowers (Benny's Megabytes, 2:36:39); 2nd Zahir Figueroa (BECOL, 2:36:39); 3rd Delawn Abraham (Benny's Meg., 2:48:57).
Some 27 veteran riders took part in the Masters 4/5 race, which left Orange Walk Town along with the Females and Juniors. Top finishers were: 1st place, Barney Brown (Scotiabank, 2:31); 2nd Warren Coye (Ride for Victory, st); and 3rd Daniel Cano (Digicell-4G, st).
For the up and coming young riders (under 16) top finishers were: 1st Michael Grahalez (Mando's, 2:48:57); 2nd Devin Azueta (Cayo High Road, st); and 3rd Dennis Arnold (unattached, st).
The big team winner in this year's Krem Classic was the Benny's Megabytes team, which captured the top 2 places in the Elite race, as well as 1st and 3rd places in the Juniors.
THE NEW YEAR BEGINS
2013 is wound down, and the New Year 2014 is here, and it begins with the full blown spectacle of the 2nd biggest cycling event in the 2014 calendar - as over a hundred cyclists, male and female, from Youth to Masters, local and foreign, first timers, veteran warriors and past champions are all getting ready to gear down for what has become a Belizean tradition now about to enter its 24th year - the Krem New Year's Day Cycling Classic.
Coincidentally, the first KREM Cycling Classic, won by Michael "Big Wire" Lewis, took place on New Year's Day of 1991, the same year that the first semi-pro football season kicked off in Belize. The Premier League is right now in the heat of perhaps its toughest and most exciting race to their playoffs. Playoff bound teams will likely not be finally decided until next weekend, although some teams might clinch a playoff spot from this coming Sunday. But cycling is a different story.
In this Wednesday's KREM New Year's Classic, it will all be decided once and for all on New Year's Day, when fans will welcome the winners as they cross the finish line at the junction of Mahogany Street and Central American Boulevard. The "playoffs," if there are any, are being decided with registration deadlines and the technical meeting tonight at the UWI campus on Princess Margaret Drive. And all vetted cyclists will get a chance to compete for the prestigious KREM Classic championship which comes along with what is certainly the most enticing package of prizes ever for this race. Where previously the race station prizes only included one of a thousand dollars, there are now four such prizes along the way to the finish, where there is an even bigger bag of prizes for the champion. And there are many other smaller station prizes along the way.
Up to yesterday, there were 73 cyclists, from 7 different teams as well as unattached riders, including 7 riders from Mexico, 2 from Guatemala and 2 from the USA registered in the Elite/U-23/Masters 4/5 category, which leaves from the northern border and travels along the Philip Goldson (Northern) Highway through Corozal Town and Orange Walk Town, and all the villages along the way to Belize City - a journey of 97 miles to the finish line on Central American Boulevard. Defending champion is David Henderson, Jr. who rode for Santino's last year, but is this year under the Benny's Megabytes banner. (See Amandala ad "Who will win?" for the list of all past champions of the KREM Classic.)
All the big names in Elite cycling are in the tentative starting list we saw yesterday, though there has been some movement of members from one team to another.
Notably absent from the team list is the Santino's team. But the new SMART team features a number of former Santino's riders - Cross Country champion Darnell Barrow, Joevin "Froggy" Leslie, Quinton "the Baddest" Hamilton, Herman "Hijo" Requena, and Guatemalans Carlos Cambronero-Hernandez and Cristian Alvarado-Lopez.
Benny's Megabytes consists of Byron Pope, Allen Castillo, Mark Staine, defending KREM Classic champion David Henderson, Jr., Ruben Cano, Brandon Morgan, Robert Liam Stewart, and 2 Mexicans - Carlos Lopez and U-23 Jose Anguiano-Gonzalez.
Cayo High Road now features the Choto brothers - Geovanni, Peter, Rafael and Jose, along with Aiden Eimr Juan, Dalvin Cowo, Juan Umana and Brandon Cattouse. (So it seems the C-Ray team is also taking a sabbatical along with Santino's.)
The Bel-Cal Cycling team consists of Justin Williams, Frederick Sutherland, Dwight Lopez, Dean Middleton, Calman Williams, George Abraham, Sr., Shelton Graham, and USA's Rainel Sanchez.
Western Spirit is now made up of the Troyer brothers - Roger and Richard, the Vasquez brothers - Shane and Ron, along with U-23's Oscar Quiros, Jr., Deezan Spence and Austin Armstrong, Jr.
The Telemedia team features the Lovell brothers - Gregory "Bullet", Giovanni and George, Jr., along with Joel Adan Borland and Marlon "Diesel" Castillo.
Capital City Cycling Team has only 3 members - Erwin Middleton, Adrian Gardiner and Tariq Cano.
The Mexican team Depredadores, strangely, includes 2 Belizean riders - Nissan Arana and Jairo Campos, along with Mexicans - Julio Dzul-Alcocer, Manuel Ayala-Balam, David Balan-Interian and Omar Gomez-Canche.
The Unattached list of riders include - (USA) Anthony Taylor, (MEX) Juan Manuel Yapur, and Belizeans - Leroy Casasola, Richard Santiago, Phillip Leslie, Eldon Simmons, Jordan Lewis, Kent Gabourel, Jr., Orson Butler, Henry Moreira, Anwar Barrow, Michael Wagner, Jr., Philton Butler, Joslyn Chavarria, Jr., Cheng Lee Hao, Chris Ramirez, Christian Madrid, Trevon Salazar, Angel Tzib, Ron McKenzie and Shannon Black.
The Women, Juniors/Youth and Masters 4/5 in this year's KREM Classic will all travel the 50-mile journey from Orange Walk Town to Belize City.
The Female race, though so far only including 6 contestants, will feature at least 3 past champions - 2005 champion Marinette Flowers (unattached), 2006 champion Alicia Thompson (Belize Bank Swoosh), and 4-time (2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013) and defending champion Shalini Zabaneh (Sagitun). Other participants include Patricia Chavarria (BECOL), Gabrielle Lovell (Telemedia) and Kerah Eiley (unattached). The Ladies version of the KREM Classic was first run in 2001, so this would be the 14th running of the female KREM Classic. Karen Rosito was the first female champion in 2001.
Fourteen promising young riders will compete in the Junior/Youth categories, and there are 32 competing in the Masters 4/5 category, including 5 Mexicans.
The Junior/Youth teams include: (BECOL) Zahir Figueroa, Adrian Aleman, Delon Gentle and Keion Robateau; (Cayo High Road) Devin Azueta and Zamir Rashad Guerra; (Mando's) Michael Grajalez, Zamir Esquiliano and Phillip Mencias; (Benny's Megabytes) defending champion Tarique Flowers and Delawn Abraham; and (unattached) Dennis Arnold, Darien Anderson and Darnell Garcia.
(Note: The final official starting list will be decided at tonight's technical meeting.)
"From the border to the Belcan!" It is KREM Classic time! Happy New Year to all!!