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Marty Offline OP
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The Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic is the only certifiably epic event on the annual sporting calendar. And that is because of its history, but it's also because of the pageantry - the colors and the character of the men and their machines. Today as an annual pre-race event, the Cycling Federation arranged a Cycling Parade. We stopped by to speak to a few of the local cyclists about their level of preparedness:

Darnell Barrow, 2013 Cross Country Champ
"I feeling very amazing and I've been doing all my training so I feel confident right now; myself and my team has been training very hard. I have a good team support to back me up to defend my title, so feeling good."

Daniel Ortiz
"Tell us about the pressure? Every Belizean wants to see a Belizean take the garland and you done it last year and now the pressure is on you to keep it, so how do you deal with that?"

Darnell Barrow
"There is no pressure, it's not my first cross country I've been riding, so I know what to do and how to ride, so I just let the race come to me and hope for the best."

Byron Pope
"According to our team plan then I should know how the race will play out when it gets on the way."

Daniel Ortiz
"What does one do to prepare for a race as big as this?"

Byron Pope
"A lot of hard work and dedication. It isn't just this month I am preparing for cross country, its a long time. It starts from the off season with the 3 months gym work, 3 months jogging - all of that I use as build up to use up towards this cross country."

Daniel Ortiz
"What do you do as an athlete for the last two days before this race happens?"

Byron Pope
"Two days isn't enough, you need like a week - two weeks of proper resting, eating properly, hydrating to time to be able to compete for this race."

Greg Lovell
"This week I did a lot of spinning, a lot of slow ride - I just take it easy because only a week away there is nothing you can gain going to the cross country."

Daniel Ortiz
"Tell us about your team's preparedness and fitness for the cross country? Are you guys confident in the work you put in?"

Greg Lovell
"We have a very excellent Belizean team and we are all ready. We have Marlon Castillo, Joel Borland and also Geovanni and with the help of Leroy Cassasola and George Junior to help us out there getting our water and make sure we get our food on time. Marlon and I will go in the race really hard."

Marlon Castillo
"Everybody was training in the race these past two months so I think everyone is in good condition, but I don't know foreigners riders, some of them I haven't rode with before but we will see how they stand after 140 miles."

Joel Borland
"I think my team is fully prepared. From earlier in the year we did most of our based miles and the basic cross country training that you need to go the long distances."

Daniel Ortiz
"Tell us about your role in the team?"

Joel Borland
"Definitely I am prepared to play a supporting role for my team leaders Greg Lovell and Marlon Castillo. I think they are the more experience riders and they know how to ride this race. I am 19 years old, my time will come, but for now I am riding for them."

Saturday's race will feature 80 Belizean riders and 27 foreign riders. It starts at 5:50 a.m., and rolls off from the BTL Park, where it makes its way around the City at a moderate pace. When they get to Leslie's Imports, the riders will make their surge forward where the race officially starts.

Channel 7

12 Things You Need to Know About the 2014 Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic

The "Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic" is the top sporting event in Belize that draws crowds in the thousands.

This year, the Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic is scheduled to take place on April 19th 2014.

The event is covered in "real time" (live coverage) throughout the country.

The race begins in Belize City.

The race is comprised of 144 miles.

At 6:00 a.m., cyclists start the race at Leslie's Imports (Mile 1 �) on the George Price Highway.

Cyclists are categorized into four groups, 18 Year Old , Under 23, Elite and Masters.

The mood is always celebratory during the race due to the peaceful and happy nature of the Belizean people.

The "Finish" line will be at the newly renovated, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) Park.

The standard race time is approximately 6 hours so make sure to have an extra bottle of water.

The first race was held on April 5th, 1928

The Easter season is typically the hottest time for Belize and post-race activities usually consists of island or pool side relaxation!

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Juan Pable Magallanes
(Winner, Cross Country Cycling Classic)

Mexican Juan Pablo Magallanes wins Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic

Veteran Mexican rider Juan Pablo Magallanes Aranda, 33, is the winner of the 86th annual Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic, outlasting a deep field of local and international talent.

Weather conditions favored a fast race, and the record of 2 hours 40 minutes to San Ignacio was bettered from its position in 2009. Magallanes, riding for Benny's Megabytes, was one of a group of dangerous internationals leading the first half of the race along with David Henderson, Giovanni and Rafael Choto of Belize and Hector Hugo Rangel of Mexico, and he shook them off at Belmopan to run through the hills. He was ultimately reeled in, but not before a group of six foreigners, including Guatemalans and Americans, had dodged a six-pack of Belizeans early on the return journey.

Toward the end of the race fourth-place finisher Hector Hugo Rangel of Mexico seemed ready to ride away with the prize. But then the race took a final twist as several of the foreign group caught up and the Belizeans fell back. It ultimately came down to Magallanes versus Guatemalan Alejandro Padilla, riding for Team Smart, and Florencio Ramos of Mexico's Depredadores (Predators). He would beat them at the tape in an unofficial time of five hours, 48 minutes, just shy of the 2008 official record held by American Ryan Baumann.

Cross Country Champion

After the race, Magallanes and sponsor Perry Gibson said they were determined to win the race come what may, and while the hope was on National Champion and Krem Classic Champion Byron Pope to step forward, he was ultimately unable and Magallanes took on the mantle. Padilla, Ramos, Rangel (who also rode for Benny's) and Marlon Castillo, who led a chasing group of four in vain at the end, finished in that order. Magallanes added that he felt Belizeans needed more "experience" in the surrounding territories which hold major races before Cross Country, rather than simply riding the local events typically held once every month.

Gibson said that this had always been the one that "got away," for his team. most recently last year when Magallanes lost out to Darnell Barrow in a sprint. Words could not describe, he said, the feeling at finally winning "the garland" for his team, no matter the disappointment of Belizeans who nationalistically cheered for a son of the soil.

Magallanes takes home thousands of dollars in station prizes and $6,000 for his first-place finish; meanwhile, the "incentive prizes" for a possible Belizean winner will be rolled over to next year's event.

Patrick Jones

Mexican wins 86th Cross Country Cycling Classic

Foreign riders dominated the top seven places of the 86th Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic today, with Mexican rider Juan Pablo Magallanes of Benny's Megabytes Team winning in five hours 45 minutes and three seconds. Magallanes finished second last year to Darnell Barrowr, and this year he outsprinted Guatemalan rider Alejandro Miranda Padilla of the SMART team at the finish line in front of the BTL Park in Belize City.

Magallanes won the $6,000 first prize, the winner's garland of roses from Florasol and no less than eight trophies: from Digicell, the Elston Kerr Cup, the Jeffery O'Brien family, the Altreith Smith family, Ludrick "Buno" Smith Memorial, the Green family of Los Angeles trophy, the Donald Matura family trophy and the Norman Ashford Gillett trophy. He also won a $400 shopping spree at Mirage, a return ticket to the USA from United Airlines, a return ticket from Maya Island Air, a bull from Cuello's Distillery, a two-night stay at Barrier Reef Lodge and a weekend's stay for two at Captain Morgan's Retreat, both in San Pedro Town, $250 from LC Distributors and an MP4 player from Go Wireless.

Alejandro Miranda Padilla finished three seconds later to claim the $3,000 second prize and a trophy from the Belize Bank, a return ticket to the USA from United Airlines, an overnight stay at the Magic Island Resort in Caye Caulker, a return ticket from Maya Island Air, and the Altreith Smith Memorial plaque.

Mexican rider Florencio Ramos of the Predators team, the Belizean affiliate of the Depredadores team of Chetumal, Quintana Roo, won the $2,000 third prize and a trophy from Belize Electricity Ltd; as well as an overnight stay at the Barefoot Caribe in Caye Caulker, and a return ticket from Maya Island Air.

David Santos of the Bel-Cal team from California, USA won the $1,000 fourth prize and a trophy from Atlantic Bank, while Magallanes' teammate Hector Hugo Rangel won the $800 fifth prize and a trophy from Barrow and Company.

Alejandro's brother, Julio Miranda Padilla, also of the SMART team, led a second group of three riders in some 40 seconds after his brother, to win the $600 sixth prize and a trophy from Bowen & Bowen Ltd. Scottie Weisse of the Hincapie Lampierre team of the USA was hard on his wheel to win the $400 seventh prize and a trophy, offered by Belize Sugar Industries.

Marlon Castillo of the Belize Telemedia team was the first Belizean, finishing in 5:45:50, to claim the $300 eighth prize from Belize Maintenance Ltd, while his teammates Giovanni and Gregory Lovell rode in four minutes later to take the ninth and 10th places. Giovanni won a $200 prize while his brother Greg won a $150 prize from the Belize City Council.

Cory Williams of Bel-Cal and Weisse's teammate Isaac Enderline rode in 5:50:28 to take the 11th and 12th places, each winning a $100 prize.

The race began with a slow ride out from the BTL Park down the marine parade and into Freetown Road, over the Belcan bridge and along the Central American Boulevard into Cemetery Road. The race did not begin in earnest until the peloton rolled up to the starting line by Leslie's Imports on the George Price Highway. The 2012 Cross Country champion, Geovanni Choto of the C-Ray Road Addikz team took up the pace, jumping out solo to win over $1,400 as he swept all the station prizes to mile 19 and opening up a lead of a minute and 22 seconds.

The Benny's Megabytes team soon mounted a challenge, with Magallanes and David Henderson, Jr., leading a four-man chase group that included C-Ray's Raphael Choto and Ramos, and by mile 24 after Rockville, they had caught Geovanni.

This five-man breakaway continued working together, alternating on the pace all the way to Belmopan. Meanwhile a chase group of 14 riders had broken away from the main peloton led by a trio of riders from the SMART team: Quinton "Baddest" Hamilton and the Miranda Padilla brothers, Henderline and his Hincapie teammate - two time Cross Country champion Chris Harkey, Santos, Rangel and Joel Borland of Belize Telemedia.

The lead five were still together leaving Roaring Creek, but by Camalote, Magallanes and Ramos had broken away and soon opened up a three minute gap as they worked together, alternating the lead as they rolled through the Cayo hills, with Ramos winning the station prizes at Esperanza. They reached the half way point at the Coronation Park in San Ignacio, and had returned to the Carillo Puerto Avenue in Santa Elena before the chase group had reached it.

The three Belizean riders were soon caught by the SMART and Hincapie riders and Borland, but Hamilton and Raphael Choto fell off the pace to the rear of the group, and eventually a six man breakaway of Harkey, Henderline, the Padilla brothers, Rangel and Santos left behind the Belizean riders, who were now led by Borland, with Giovanni Choto, Henderson, Richard Santiago, Hamilton and Raphael Choto trailing.

A light rain cooled the riders as they returned to the city, but many fell casualty to a big spill in the main peloton at mile 40. Notably Byron Pope of Benny's Megabytes and Marlon Castillo of Telemedia avoided the spill. Rangel also survived the spill, and they led the chase group who closed in the leaders.

Rangel successfully bridged the gap to the lead duo of Mexicans, and Rangel then broke away from his countrymen on a solo ride to the city, taking a $1,000 station prize at Mahogany Heights and opening up a two-minute gap of over a mile on his nearest rivals. Rangel continued on the pace as he swept the $1,500 prize at the mile 24 sanitary land fill and a $500 prize at Rockville, and another $5,000 prize offered by RJB construction at the mile 12 and a half.

David Santos, Ramos and Magallanes caught Rangel as they approached the bridge across the Bordon Canal where Magallanes took the station prize. Magallanes then led a three-man breakaway, including Padilla and Ramos. This trio alternated winning the remaining station prizes, with Ramos taking the $1,500 prize offered by Solid Waste management at the mile 3 garbage transfer station.

Santos and Rangel led the five man breakaway as they turned on to the Marine Parade with Miranda third, Magallanes fourth and Ramos fifth, before the final sprint to the finish.

The Reporter

Belize Cross Country Cycling Classic 2014 Finish

The winner of this years Belize Cross Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic is Juan Pablo Magallanes of Mexico riding for Team Benny's Megabytes.

Second Place was won by a Mexican rider for Team Sprint and third place by a rider from Guatemala.

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Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Cross Country Hopes Dashed, Sober Lessons For Local Cyclists

The 86th. Cross Country, would a Belizean win it? Would the cycling gods be so kind? Well, looking at it statistically, probably not, considering that Belizean riders won in 2012 and 2013. But, in the heart and mind of even the casual cycling fan - if he or she is a patriot - a Belizean just had to win it! Except this year they didn't. Defending Champion Darnell Barrow had high hopes on his shoulders, as did National Road Champion Byron Pope. But hope can only go so far on the highway when 22 top foreign cyclists are trying to snipe at the crown jewel of Belizean sport. Here's how it played out on the road:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
This year sign-in and bike check for the 109 riders in the 86TH Holy Saturday Cycling Classic started from 4:00 am, in front of the BTL Park.

his year, the cyclists wore a black bow in memory of Ernest Dangalang Thurton and by extension all fallen members of the cycling family.

Defending champion Darnell Barrow and National Road Champion of Belize Byron Pope took their positions at the front of the lineup.

And at 5:50 - they were off - the defending champion on his phone - for the ceremonial ride, called a lead-out - which would take them through the city. The red flag denotes to the riders that the race has not started yet.

It was a chance for the riders to ease their nerves - something like a soft start to the day - and a chance for the fans to see the cyclists not at race speed.

At Leslie's Imports, the white line marks the official start - a flying start as they call it - and they're off. First to make a significant move near CISCO was the 2012 champion Giovanni Choto of C-Ray Road Addicts.

With fresh legs, he set a blistering pace, over 25 miles an hour - alone at the front. Behind him, everyone else - 11 Mexicans, 7 Americans, 2 Guatemalans, 1 Jamaican American, and 1 Spaniard - a total of 22 foreign riders and 87 Belizeans, for the 109 riders each with a garland hope however faint.

They were not chasing, knowing that they had over 130 miles still to go. For Choto he knew that in 2012, he ran for 133 miles - not all of it solo - but enough to give him confidence this year.

At Hattieville, Giovanni Choto still flying solo easily takes the station prize. And just about a minute later, there's the chase, the pace accelerated now, and whipping past our camera with a collective roar.

As we approach Rockville, the first major chase group is formed, it features Giovanni's brother Raphael Choto, David Henderson Jr. Florencio Ramos and Jaun Pablo Magallanes.

At Rockville Giovanni Choto still enjoys a 48 second lead, but the chase group of four are now closing in. By the time we reach mile 25, Giovanni Choto has been caught, so the breakaway is now five riders heading into a cross wind.

While flag bearing fans tried to keep up with them. At mile 36, it's Giovanni and Rafael Choto of C-RAY, David Henderson Jr. and Juan Pablo Magallanes of Benny's Megabytes and Florencio Ramos of team Predators Belize and then there is the main bunch of riders led by American Scotty Weiss - still keeping it together.

Heading into Belmopan, David Henderson sprints for the prize at Guanacaste. When we catch up with the leaders again near dead man curve at mile 56, they are only two - a pair of Mexicans who have separated themselves, Juan Pablo Magallenes and Florencio Ramos.

The pair are familiar with the race: Magallenes finished second last year riding for Benny's and Ramos rode for C-Ray last year, famously dropping out of the breakaway for Brandon Cattouse.

Some two minutes back there is a 13 man chase group that includes Joel Borland, Giovanni Choto, Chris Harkey, Hector Hugo Rangel, Quinton Hamilton, David Henderson Jr, David Santos, Richard Santiago, Alejandro Miranda, and AJ Meyers.

At Mount Hope, the leaders are well ahead; Florencio Ramos takes the prize while the chase group is being led by two-time champion Chris Harkey.

At Central Farm, Magallanes takes the prize. But the two are definitely working together. At the halfway point in San Ignacio, the fans have been lined up for hours to see this, the first two figures over the bridge, not quite what they might have hoped for - the two Mexicans, but the leaders nonetheless.

All those lined up in the town center, would wait another two and a half minutes to see team Telemedia's Joel Borland come across the bridge, followed by 12 riders making the turnaround Columbus Park to the sound of noisemakers, cheering and applause.

It would be another three minutes before the main bunch wound around the park, a symphony of colour and noise. When we catch back up with the leaders, they are at Brick Wall, rounding the corner all alone, hardly labouring and making light work of the incline.

The chase group that was 12 is now down to 6 - and the missing 6 are all Belizeans. Those still there are Chris Harkey, Hector Hugo Rangel, the Miranda Brothers, AJ Meyers and David Santos. Some two minutes behind the closes Belizeans are Richard Santiago, Joel Borland, Giovanni Choto and Quinton Hamilton.

At Guanacaste Park, the two Mexican leaders don't even have to fight for the station prize, but now the chase group of 6 is closing in - again, all foreign riders.

Around mile 40, on a rain slicked road, the two leaders are showing signs of fatigue - stretching their backs - but still keeping on the pace.

By the time the race reaches around mile 31, the two leaders have been caught, and now another Mexican riding for Benny's Megabytes, Hector Hugo Rangel has embarked on a solo flight. If you are wondering who he is, the last time he was here was the Cross Country of 2010 when riding for Team Santino's, he attempted to pace Gregory Lovell from mile 35 to the finish line. He failed that time, but on this Holy Saturday, unaccompanied and out front, he was hoping for a different outcome.

With over a hundred miles on him, Rangel bathed himself and still looked fresh and had boosted himself into a comfortable lead over the five all foreign chasers.

Rangel at this time is being pursued by Alejandro Miranda, Florencio Ramos, David Santos, and sitting in, Magallanes. In the meantime, Hector Hugo Rangel drives on - showing fatigue now, and only 37 seconds ahead of the nearest chase - but five thousand dollars richer after claiming the prize at RJB Construction.

And by mile 7, they have him in their crosshairs, the once distant figure on the horizon now being closed in by the chase, after about 30 miles of running.

Heading into the Burdon Canal Bridge, Rangel falls to the back and Magallanes is back at the front, on the pace. Around Old Belize Magallanes attacks, and only Ramos and Miranda can hang on while Rangel and Santos got dropped.

Heading into the City, passing Leslie's Imports it is two Mexicans and a Guatemalan. They stayed together coming into the city - to the sight of disappointed fans who lined the streets.

They three stayed together heading into Freetown Road but near ITVET - they were caught by Rangel and Santos - at the finish line, those five sprinted for it, and Juan Pablo Magallanes of Team Benny's Megabytes came out as the winner of the 86th Cross Country followed by four foreign riders Alejandro Miranda, Ramos, Rangel and Santos.

And then 40 seconds later, two more foreigners Julio Miranda, Scottie Weiss and finally the first Belizean finished eighth Marlon Castillo for team Telemedia.

Though a Mexican won, he rode for a Belizean team - one which finally can claim a garland.

Perry Gibson, Manager - Team Megabytes
"That we were able to win means everything to us. In the end the most important thing is to win. This is the only race that we have not won since we have been in cycling and to finally get it means everything in the world."

Daniel Ortiz
"Would you have preferred one of your Belizean riders to win?"

Perry Gibson, Manager - Team Megabytes
"Two years ago we rode exclusively for Byron and we lost the race because of the way it played out. Today we weren't going to go down that road, Byron would have had to been there to have basically given the opportunity - he had to create his own opportunity, that's what I am saying and unfortunately it didn't play out that way."

Alejandro Padilla (Miranda), 2nd Place - Team SMART (Guat)
"I don't like to talk bad about Belizeans; you guys have really good riders here. The problem they have is their mentality - they want to be taken to the finish and that won't happen in every and in any race. Wherever you go you have to ride. If you want to make it to the end you have to ride."

Greg Lovell, 10th - Team BTL
"We just sit down and try to conserve our energy with the other guys that are capable of winning the race and what happen is the foreigners start to work really hard and went in the early breaks, really strong guys, high caliber cyclists that have the capability that can run the race the entire way going and coming back and we realize that we were in trouble when we reach Roaring Creek. The American team start to chase, but we realize that we were all in trouble. It was hard to close in the gap."

Alejandro Padilla (Miranda), 2nd Place - Team SMART (Guat)
"We use to the race coming back. The race is won coming back but when you have that many guys going up the road with the legs to do it, you can't hesitate, you got to go."

Greg Lovell, 10th - Team BTL
"What happen is that the managers of the other bigger teams they bring the foreigners to win because I know they don't have confidence in their Belizean cyclist that can win the race, so they want to match-up and when the other teams brings in good foreigners the other teams want to do the same so that they can have a level of competition in the race. Their goal is to win the race even it's not a Belizean. At the end of the day it's their team that won and that's what happens."

Juan Pablo Magallanes, 1st Place - Benny's Megabytes (Mex)
"It's a country that has good riders, their shortfall is not going abroad to get a feel for the pace needed in international races. But they are very good riders here."

Magallanes won the $6,000 dollar first prize, and 3-time Cross country champion Kenrick Halliday presented him with the winner's garland of roses from Florasol. Magallanes also won eight trophies: from Digicell, the Elston Kerr Cup, the Jeffery O'brien family, the Altreith Smith family, Ludrick "Buno" Smith memorial, the Green family of Los Angeles, the Donald Matura family and the Norman Ashford Gillett trophy. He also won a $400 shopping spree at Mirage, a return ticket to the USA from United Airlines, a return ticket from Maya Island Air, a bull from Cuello's Distillery, a two night stay at Barrier Reef Lodge in San Pedro and a weekend's stay for two at Captain Morgan's Retreat in San Pedro, $250 from LC Distributors and an MP4 player from Go Wireless. He finished the race in 5 hours 45 minutes, five minutes slower than the record pace set in 2009.

If you want just a little more cycling, stay tuned at the end of the news, when the second place finisher, Alejandro Padilla Miranda explains how the closing minutes played out as a cat and mouse game.

How The Race Was Won (And Lost)

In our last segment we showed you how it all went down in the 86th. Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic. But, as we close tonight, we'll have a little more for all you race junkies. The well-spoken second place finisher explained how he saw the race and the sprint shaping up between the dominant Mexican cyclists Magallanes and Rangel:..

Perry Gibson, Manager - Team Megabytes
"In the end the foreigners really rode tactically; one attacking, one waiting and it were good that we had two where we were able to play our cards better."

Alejandro Padilla (Miranda), 2nd Place - Team SMART (Guat)
"These guys Florencio and Magallanes on the front earlier on - the thing is with them - I know them, I race with them quite a bit and they are really strong riders. They have a lot of experience in the races around the world and I know they have the legs to go the whole way. I knew Mexicans work together, even if they are riding for different teams and them racing different teams back home as well. But it's the same, imagine you as Belizeans, you go to another country and everyone else is a stranger, but between you guys, you race together, you'll help each other and that's what they did. At the end the problem we had was 3 Mexicans an American and myself and one time I got on Magallanes' wheel, when he saw the American wanting to work with the others and they didn't want to go, Magallanes saw that and he just went real hard. I thought for a while I could actually take it but coming into the end with all those guys (Mexicans) here, he jump from behind, I didn't have the legs to respond. I just waited as close as possible to finish second."

Miranda-PADILLA finished three seconds behind the winner.

Channel 7

Race for the Garland

The 86th running of the annual Cross Country Classic is history and after two years of home town dominance, the garland has once again gone abroad. As per usual, there is the sentiment of what almost borders xenophobia as the organizers and sponsors again face criticism for bringing in foreigner riders. Since 1971 when Mexican Pablo Calderon became the first foreign rider to win the classic, the fear is always that some foreign rider might come in and leave us heartbroken. Since being allowed to participate, foreign riders have done so 18 out of the 28 times they have participated.

This year there was the usual influx of foreign riders and once again, much to the chagrin of many locals, top honors went to one of the invaders. Mexican Juan Pablo Magallanes, riding for the Benny's Megabytes Team, crossed the line first and sent Belizeans to finish the rest of the Easter holidays disappointed. But really, should we be? Isn't it high time that Belizeans started viewing this race in the same light that the French view the Tour de France? That we stop clamoring for a local rider to win and start looking at this race instead, from the perspective of quality and economic benefits. The Tour de France is the world's most prominent and popular cycling race and has lengthened its reach to extend around the globe. Riders from as many as 33 countries compete and the last Frenchman to win the tour was Bernard Hinault way back in 1985. Yet, one would not hear the French expressing the type of indignation that Belizeans do and it might be because of the realization that the Tour pumps millions into the France's economy each year.

Throughout the race, radio announcers kept lamenting the fact that Belizean riders were being left behind. One announcer seemed almost in tears as he declared that it did not "look good". I was listening and thinking, 'Well, it doesn't look too bad for those five guys in the lead'. Of course, they were all foreign riders and in the end, the first seven cyclists to cross the finish line were all foreign riders. Megabytes apparently had a plan and it worked to perfection.

This year, for the first time in several decades, cycling enthusiasts and the man most singly responsible for bringing in foreign riders, did not put a team in the race. The man who likes to be called "the chief" will tell you how difficult and frustrating it is to keep our local riders focused. Santino, himself a rider, was known to go to great lengths to accommodate his riders. He would pick them up from home and pay them extra to practice. He hires many of the guys who ride on his team, gives them easy jobs and time off to train. Yet he could always be heard complaining that his riders did not want to practice. Belizean riders keep complaining about the level of competition that comes in but why can't we reach that level? All year long you see these guys on the road training and there are races throughout the year. This is our turf; we should be overly familiar with the terrain. The biggest problem is that Belizeans riders are just too damn undisciplined and need to step up their game. Second place finisher Padilla said this about our local boys: "The problem they have is their mentality - they want to be taken to the finish and that won't happen".

Since I first started writing articles, way back in the early nineteen nineties, I have been crying out for a national team. Why is it that our best riders are made to ride as domestiques for imported riders? It is time for us to assemble the best of our best and establish a National Cycling Team. The guys could ride for their respective teams throughout the year but come Cross County or any other international event, it is time to represent country. These guys should be paid to train and sent out regularly to compete against formidable teams in different environments. Cycling means a lot to Belizeans, and few would balk at some money being spent to promote our local cyclists. Heaven knows, we throw away enough on cronyism and wasteful projects.

What also has to happen is for cycling to keep the dirty embrace of politics from around it. Recently we saw a move where government assisted in removing a legally elected president and replaced him with a politically connected individual; same as they did with football. This move apparently paid dividends as Channel Five was this year blocked from covering the race. Government-owned Belize Telemedia Limited poured megabucks into sponsorship of a team and station prizes along the way. If the company is indeed owned by the people, then shouldn't the people have a say in how the company's money is spent? Wouldn't that money have been better used to sponsor a national team instead of financing a team that also involved foreign riders?

Earlier this year, Minister of Sports Herman Longsworth was on television boasting and promising that the Marion Jones Stadium would be ready by Cross Country. When the time drew near and it was obviously not going to be ready, he said that there was no rush because the Princess Margaret Drive wasn't ready. We have had one excuse after the other but the fact is that after inheriting a project that was already well underway, this government has done nothing but stuff Longsworth's pocket with cash. He built a fence for a million dollars and apparently has gotten enough. Maybe we should shift our focus to fencing instead of cycling.

There is one incident involving cycling that gnaws at my craw and I will continue to write about it until someone takes notice. It occurred in 1961 when the races were finishing near the pound yard bridge. At the finish line, there was one rider, Edward Miguel ahead of everyone else. Duncan Vernon and Edward's brother Arthur was close behind. Realizing that he had won, Edward threw up his hands in victory. Unfortunately, unbeknown to most individuals and riders even, the association of the time had implemented a rule that stated that no one should take their hands off their handlebars. It was a silly and most ridiculous rule. Fortunately, it has long been removed from the books and we saw this year's winner do the very same thing. That decision must be reversed. It is too late for Edward for he is already deceased, but for the sake of the association and cycling fans of Belize, Edward Miguel should be given his championship, albeit post-humously. This is important because it would move Edward into the elite rank of four-time Cross Country champions where he rightly belongs.

The Belize Times

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