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Annual bicycle race coming up fast.

This Year's Route

Start 4:30 p.m. Thurday March 29th, 2018
Court House Plaza
Regent Street
Over the swing bridge
Queen Street
Daly Street
Craig Street
Barrack Road
Freetown Road
Round a bout
Over Belcan Bridge
Central American Blvd (to intersection with Cemetery Road)
Cemetery Road
Orange Street
Right on Albert St.
Right on to Yarborough
Caesar Ridge
Right on to Central American Blvd
Over the Belcan bridge
Passing Roundabout
Princess Margaret Drive
Finish at BTL Park.

More Information...

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The 90th Annual Cross Country Classic

on Open Your Eyes

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Belizean American, Justin Williams snags Cross Country race

[Linked Image] Belizean-American, Justin Williams has won the 2018 Annual Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic, riding into Belize City some four minutes before a seven-man chase group.

Williams, whose father, Calman Williams is a former Cross Country champion, collected $5,000 cash as his first prize, an an assortment of station prizes along the 34 miles back that he rode solo to Belize City. He also received several trophies, and the winner's jersey.

Placing second was American, Patrick Raines and Mexican, Rudy Rincon placed third.

(In the picture, Justin Williams receives the Jeffrey O'Brien championship trophy from O'Brien's granddaughter)

The Reporter

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Cross Country, Pedal By Pedal

There's nothing to destroy your Easter weekend vibe like the news that a Guatemalan has won the cross country. But that's just what happened last year. Would there be a repeat this year?

Codie Norales was out on the road for all 144 miles. Kwame Scott narrates the drama:

2009 Cross Country Champion Mexican Carlos Lopez, 2012 champion Giovanni Choto followed by Belize's top finisher last year, Ron Vasquez. Last year's second place finisher, American Patrick Raines. 2018 Junior Cross country champion, Shaun Codd, Quinton "the Baddest" Hamilton, 51 year old blast from the past, Fitzgerald Joseph were just a few of those at the early sign in.

Just before the start, past champions competing in today's event, were called to the front of the line. These included Shane Vasquez, Giovanni Choto, Carlos Lopez, Bill Elliston, Michael Lewis, Justin Williams, and Chris Harkey

Before the official start, there is a ceremonial ride through the city called a lead - out - it's a slow cruise through some of our principal streets where the fans get to view their favourite riders at warm-up speeds.

The official start numbers reveal that there are 101 riders starting, this included 87 Belizeans, which included 10 juniour riders riding in their first ever cross country, 14 foreigners which included 8 Mexicans, 5 Americans and one Jamerican - notably, no Guatemalan riders showed up.

As we turn the roundabout at Flag Monument, Belizeans waited with a bated breath anticipating about 6 hours of agony for the cyclists and anxiety for fans hoping that the garland would stay home.

And at Leslie's Imports they're off at just a few minutes past 6:00. In the early going the pace is fast and furious as two time Cross Country champion, American Chris Harkey launches an attack. He is followed by 2006 Champion Shane Vasquez and a group of other riders.

Around mile 4, Chris Harkey seems to be attempting a solo run. Also around mile 4, Phillip Leslie launches an attack. He is followed by Keon Robateau and Brandon Morgan, But then Mexican Carlos Lopez jumps on the pace followed by Henry Moreira.

As we approach mile 10, we have an inside peek at the pelothon, where riders hearts are pounding as hard as their pedals.

As we enter Hattieville, Phillip Leslie is attempting a solo run. Phlillip Leslie rides for the SMART, C-Ray, Western Spirit Cycling team - he enjoys a 30 second lead as we leave Hattieville.

At Rockville, Herman Requena takes the prize - the race is pretty much still together. At La Democracia there's a small group trying to separate themselves which includes Nissan Arana, Giovanni Choto, Joel Borland, American Rich Harper and Mexican Rider Johnathan Coache, Shane Jones, and Kaydine Pinelo

Around mile 42, a five man breakaway is in full effect. It features Darien Anderson, American David Flynn, David Henderson of Westrac, Tarique Flowers of Benny's Megabytes and Phillip Leslie of SMART, C-RAY, Western Spirit. The 5 appear to be working in cohesion, so let's see how far this one is gonna go.

As we approach the Belmopan cutoff, the breakaway of five is reported to be a minute and a half in front of the chase, which, we can assume, would be led by team Digicel - the only team without representation in this breakaway.

At Roaring Creek at Garbutt's Puma Service Station, young Darien Anderson - riding unattached - takes the station prize. About a minute and a half later comes the main pack of riders.

As we roll through Teakettle, the same five are still in front but now enjoying a lead of about a minute. Headed to Ontario - the lead group of 5 featuring Phillip Leslie of SMART, Tarique Flowers of Benny's, Darien Anderson riding unattached, David Henderson of Team WESTRAC Alliance and American Rich Harper are enjoying a one minute, 12 second lead.

At Mount Hope young Shaun Codd riding in his first cross country's the first rider up the infamous Mount Hope (you make it), followed by Joslyn Chavarria Jr., Rich Harper and Peter Choto.

As we roll through Central Farm, Joslyn Chavarria Jr., Rich Harper and Peter Choto have separated themselves

At Esperanza - the lead trio have gained over a minute lead on the chase, American Rich Harper rides for Team Starlight, Peter Choto rides for Team SMART, C-RAY Western spirit, and Joslyn Chavarria rides for team Digicel.

At the halfway point in San Ignacio - fans are lined up waiting. And the first man across the bridge is Joslyn Chavarria - in a time of 2:42:42 - 11 minutes off the record. A little over a minute later, Mexican Jose Luis Reyes leads a group of four that features Shane Jones, Richard Santiago and another Mexican. And less than a minute later, the main group led by 2015 cross country champion Justin Williams comes across the Hawkesworth Bridge.

On the return as we approach Floral PArk, Joslyn Chavarria, Rich Harper and Peter Choto remain in the lead. With a lead of one minute and twelve seconds at Go-Slow - the lead trio pushes on into a strong headwind.

As the leaders approach Mount Hope you can see the sings of Patriotism - the Belizean sentiment, hoisted high. Meanwhile inside the chase group at this time, we caught a glimpse of Angel Tzib, Anthony Taylor, Dwight Lopez and Mexican Carlos Lopez. At Dead Man curve, the lead trio of Choto, Chavarria and Harper seems to be losing momentum

About a minute later, Chris Harkey is trying to get across to the breakaway, Meanwhile, the main peloton is being led by the flying Scotsman Liam Stewart and Nissan Arana.

Approaching Camalote, we caught up with a group of five who had broken clear of the main peloton, these are Justin Williams, Oscar Quiroz, Carlos Lopez, Ernest Bradley and Giovanni Lovell. Combing out of Belmopan, there's a new configuration, featuring some 7 riders at the front. These are Chris Harkey, Oscar Quiroz, Giovanni Lovell, Ernest Bradley, Giovanni Choto, Joslyn Chavarria Jr, and Justin Williams.

Across Beaver Dam Bridge we caught up with American Patrick Raines, Mexican Rudy Rincon and Bel-Cal rider Richard Santiago trying to get across to the breakaway. The lead group Americans Patrick Raines and Chris Harkey, two Mexicans, Carlos Lopez and Rudy Rincon, BELCAL rider Richard Santiago, team SMART riders Oscar Quiroz and Peter Choto, Belize Linkup Rider, Justin Wiliams and Digicell Riders Joslyn Chavarria, Ernest Bradley and Giovanni Lovell. They seem not to be working together, and we don't see a consistent pace-line, so how will this one unfold?

A look at the main peloton shows a significantly smaller group than that which went to Cayo - and for the most part, it doesn't seems like a chase is in effect. Meanwhile back at the front of the race - around mile 34, there seems to be some momentum building - they seem to be chasing, but who could they be chasing?

The 2015 Cross Country champ, known much more for his sprinting capabilities is making a run for it. He looks good doing so as he hydrates, and glides along into a stiff headwind. Around mile 29, Williams is gaining ground, with the latest time check being two minutes ahead of the chasers.

The chasers at this time are: Patrick Raines, Geovanii Lovell, Joslyn Chavarria and Carlos Lopez. Approaching Rockville, Williams is gaining ground, he's now two and a half minutes in front and his pedal stroke appears to be smoother than silk.

At Rockville, he can hear the cheers of a Belizean fans who now have hope that one of their own will make it into the city first. The chase group of four still led by Patrick Raines still more than two minutes behind. And forty seconds later Oscar Quiroz, Rudy Rincon and Richard Santiago are chasing the chasers.

And about 30 seconds later, Liam Steward, Ernest Bradley, Chris Harkey, Joel Borland and Byron Pope are tying to make a move. Around mile 19, the David Flynn group has caught up with the Chris Harkey Group. With Justin Williams now reported to be almost three minutes in front, the chase is now being led by Mexican Carlos Lopez.

Exiting Hattieville, Justin Williams is a man on a mission, in a zone of his own. A quick look at the most memorable solo runs in the cross country over the past 25 years reveals that in 1990, Charlie Lewis rode 25 miles to the finish, Chris Harkey in 2004 rode 33 miles to the finish, in 2006, Shane Vasquez rode 19 miles to the finish, in 2008, Ryan Bauman rode 47 miles to the finish, in 2010, Miguel Perez rode 4 miles to the finish, in 2011, Luis Santizo rode three miles to the finish, in 2012, and the longest run in recent history, Giovanni Choto 62 miles to the finish. Will Justin Williams be able to accomplish this feat, with a solo run from around mile 34, would he be able to take his place in history and win for the second time in three years?

28 year old Justin Williams born to Belize parents in California is automatically a Belizean by descent, he holds a Belizean passport, which makes him as good as rice and beans, fried jack, Johnny Cake or cuttobrute.

Around mile 10 - with a 3 minute lead, Joel Borland is tying to make a go for it. But more importantly, a chase group of 12 features Byron Pope, Liam Stewart, Jose Luis Reyes, Carlos Lopez, Ernest Bradley, Joel Borland, Giovanni Lovell, Joslyn Chavarria Jr, Patrick Raines, Rudy Rincon, Richard Santiago and Oscar Quiroz.

Just after Burdon Canal bridge, with an anguished look on his face and his latest time check putting the gap at now over four minutes, Justin Williams appears to be digging deep into the reserve tank, each pedal stoke is punishing, but one push closer to history.

As he edges his way towards Belize City, his racing experiences abroad obviously playing a major role as he digs deep for the skill and stamina to finish a race of this magnitude.

At Faber's Road junction, Williams, sporting number 124, can hear the swells of applause from a city eager for a champion. Entering Lord Ridge Cemetery, Williams is starting to smell the roses. Unto Central American Boulevard the applause is in surround sound as fans crowd the sidewalks to cheer him on.

And at the flag monument, the closest time gap is well over four minutes. On Princess Margaret Drive, Williams waves in appreciation to his Belizean fans - he finally knows that victory is his.

And at the finish line, the solitary figure of a victorious Justin Williams is the result of hard work over the last 5:45 minutes and 17 seconds.

Some 5 minutes later, American Patrick Raines finishes second for the second year in a row, and Mexican Rudy Rincon finished third while Liam Stewart finished fourth.

And 18 seconds later, Giovanni Lovell beats out Mexican Luis Reyes to finish fifth and sixth respectively.

Some 47 seconds later, Byron Pope comes in 7th followed by OScar Quiros, Joel Borland and Richard Santiago who finished 8th, 9th and 10th respectively.

Williams finished the race in 5:45:58 - which, as you heard in the story was five minutes off the 2008 record. The first under 23 rider was Ernest Bradley, second Thereque Leslie and Kaydeen Pinelo third.

IN the open masters category it was Patrick Raines, Liam Stewart and Carlos Lopez

And in the Masters Category, it was Liam Stewart, Jose Choto and Kenroy Gladden and the first Juniour was Shaun Codd while the youngest rider to finish was Tevin Chaplin.

Racers React To Justin's Dominating Victory

And while those were the top finishers across all categories - there is only one garland - and it went on the broad shoulders of Justin Williams - the first two time champion since 2004. After the race he told us the relief he felt in knowing he'd kept the garland at home:...

Justin Williams, Two time Cross Country Champ
"Today I came out early. I don't have a team so I kind of have to take a lot of risk in letting everyone race early. This year it felt pretty good. It seemed like all the Belizean guys are riding selflessly. They looked like everyone was on the same page and that's always really nice to see when I come out here and everyone is racing for the pride of the country. I didn't think I'd go solo. I thought someone would come with me like one of the Americans or Mexicans. They didn't and I'm grateful. My dad said that the Belizean guys at the back kind of just marked everyone out the race, which I'm super grateful for. I come out here every year and I have respect for those dudes."

"Anything you want to say to the Belizean public, to your family or to your fans?"

Justin Williams, Two time Cross Country Champ
"Yes I just want to think everyone for coming out and making this race so special. It's something different than racing at home. When I race in America it doesn't feel the same. I just want to thank all the riders that came with their heart out on the road. I want to thank all the people that came out this year."

Patrick Raines, Second Place - HSCCC
"I want to say congrats to him, he won the garland good for him. I know it was frustrating for him last year so I think he came really prepared this year and it definitely showed what he did to us."

"You had to want to win. At what point did you realize 'I can't win, I can only compete for second'."

Patrick Raines, Second Place - HSCCC
"The first time we were on Justin's wheel and he took about a two minute pull and there was only 4 of us. We regrouped and he went again. He put a big gap on us, that's when first place was gone and I had to start thinking about 2nd place."

"Was he actively trying to shred you guys?"

Patrick Raines, Second Place - HSCCC
"Yes even was phenomenal, he was great."

"You think you can win next year?"

Patrick Raines, Second Place - HSCCC
"I don't know about that, I would be lucky to be second again. I would be really happy about that."

Rudy Rincon, Third Place - HSCCC (translated)
"He said that he came in 13th last time and he feels very good that this time he came in second. He actually expected this, he thought about it well and said he deserve a good placing. He came with his mind set that yes he will get a good placing in this one. He didn't go because he realized that his team stayed behind and he needed his team to come with him. He stayed back a little hoping that they would come. Then he realized that they weren't coming."

Giovannie Lovell, 5th Place - HSCCC
"I am really disappointed about my position. I could have done better, if I had rode a defensive race. I am kind of glad that a Belizean won and not a foreigner so we did good today. I am really disappointed in myself because I know that I could have won today. I'm still fresh and I should have rid a more defensive and aggressive race."

"So you felt you should've been in an earlier break?"

Giovannie Lovell, 5th Place - HSCCC
"I should have been in an earlier break and maybe I could have gotten a win. I should've followed Justin Williams when he went."

"You thought he went too early?"

Giovannie Lovell, 5th Place - HSCCC
"Yes I thought he went too early, so we thought that we would've caught him back down the road because he had 5 fanners there so he would've burned himself at an early stage so we could've caught him. I didn't notice he was so strong and on a different level than us so congrats to Justin Williams."

Chris Harkey, Finished 21st - HSCCC
"You had plenty of Belizean riders out there to escape and win in the same race Justin just won. Justin got caught into a game right there where we had a situation if we chase him again or we don't. I have got to admit I told Justin before the race and we had a little agreement and I stuck to my deal. I gave him a little gap to see what happen. We were trying to let the Mexican riders try do what they can do to get close and when they couldn't do it, we looked up and said lets race with what we've got. I love all these Belize riders but until they start working together no matter what team they're on, taking care of one another, they have got to take care of each other to get to the end if they want a chance to win."

Justin Did It For Belize

Many had a chance to win, but only one rider seized it - and in doing so, Justin Williams etched his name in history. This morning - before he flew back to the US - Justin discussed the personal and national significance of this victory:...

"They aren't many 2 time champs."

Justin Williams, Two time Cross Country Champ
"Yes, I know, it made me feel good. It made me feel like there is a huge sense of pride to have something that is so important to the country that I am from."

"You beat the second place finisher Patrick Raines by over 5 minutes, 5 minutes and 2 seconds. It couldn't have been the outcome you expected. Is it still surprising to you?"

Justin Williams
"Yes, it's funny because, the couple days before I had said to myself - you visualize what you want to happen and that's how you help yourself become successful and I was like the perfect way to win it would be to go solo and like for it to actually happen it's unbelievable."

"At some point where you incredulous or surprised at how the race was developing that nobody had organized a real chase?"

Justin Williams
"So, the whole time even though I'm at the back I'm watching who followed, how many times, how many times Nissan followed moves. I'm counting in my head that's one less moves than I did some going to have a little bit more leg so then when we get down the stretch, I already have an understanding of whoever is with me. I already been watching the whole race in the fact that they are there, Ernest Meighan was following me around and I was like, I know what effort I'm using to get across and I know he is a lot younger and he still has a lot of development to come. I know once we get down, he is going to be a little bit fatigue that I would be because I have been doing it for a lot longer. So yes, it's just like really paying attention to who doing what and what kind of legs they have. Yes, it's pretty unbelievable, I don't think I started to believe until I was going to win until like the Marion Jones Stadium that's when I was like, oh I think I won the race but yes, it's definitely a relief for me and it was a relief for everyone. I have been in the back of the field before when I won the race and everybody cursing you as you come in to town, so it was definitely the opposite of that. Okay, everyone is going to be okay at least for this weekend. So, it's a good feeling."

Justin rode unattached this year, but says he hopes to bring a team including his younger brother Corey next year.

Channel 7

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