Turning now to other news...after a 2-year hiatus, the Holy Saturday
Cross Country Cycling Classic, the biggest race on the cycling calendar
is making its rightful return as the sporting centerpiece of the Easter
Celebrations in Belize.
And while it's only a race, it's also so much more than that - at 140
miles, it is one of the most grueling one day races in the hemisphere.
More than that it is a proving ground for Belizean cyclists - can they
fend off their foreign rivals and - as the old saying goes - keep the
garland at home?
There's a lot at stake patriotism, history and athletic excellence -
but, for the past two years of COVID - it's all been put on hold. And
so, 2022 is a triumphant return to the road.
But what's this year's race going to be like?:
Had there not been any COVID Pandemic, local and international cyclists
would have been riding in the 94th Annual Holy Saturday Cross Country
But, instead, they will be riding in the 92nd iteration of the big race -
the two years lost to COVID being the longest interval without a race in
the event's history.
Andrew Ordonez - Cycling Commentator/Owner, Ordonez Bike Shop
"It had been a damper not only for cyclists, but Belizeans as a whole,
and fans in the US. This is a major race. It's the longest-running race
in this part of the hemisphere. It's been running since 1928, and fans
look forward to this [at] Easter. Without the Cross Country, their
Easter is not their Easter. So, it's definitely a welcome sign that
we're back on the highway."
Alexi Ordonez - Cycling Fan/Aspiring Cycling Administrator
"Everybody is excited. This [is] deep-rooted. It's very cultural. The
Cross Country is very Belizean. Kayla once put it that we're more
patriotic on the day of Cross Country than on any other day in
September, which was a beautiful way to put it. All of us are rooting
for a Belizean to bring home the garland. Like I said, I get chills
just thinking about cross country. Every year, when Easter comes
around, most people think, I want to go to the cayes-"
"Yeah, Good Friday fish, but every time Easter comes around, everybody
who knows the Ordonez family and the cycling family, we're looking
forward to Cross Country."
94 years ago on April 5th, 1928 40 brave men with the backing of the colony
of British Honduras set out on bikes like this Kirmer Arrow to prove that
you could travel by road from Belize City to Cayo. Of course, in those
days, it wasn't called a road; it was a trail.
It took Elston Kerr 10 hours, 50 minutes, and 49 seconds to reach Cayo -
and on Monday, April 9th, 1928, and after a total time of 21 hours 29
minutes, he was the first rider back in Belize City; Norris Wade was
second, and Bertie Cleland, third.
Of the original forty that started, 33 finished the journey. Since then,
many stories have been written, some have been forgotten, but some names
will remain forever etched in the history of the cross country.
Names like Aston Gill, Jeffrey O'Brien, Duncan Vernon, the Miguel Brothers,
Kenrick Halliday, Alpheus Williams, Alfred Parks, Charlie Lewis, Ernest
Meighan, Clinton Castillo, the youngest cross country champion ever, and
many others have become synonymous with the cross country.
On Saturday, new legends may form after about six hours of stalking glory
and the garland on the George Price Highway.
"So, of course, you'll only have 1 winner, but you have to be a cyclist
just to understand the adrenaline rush you get. Just to compete in such
an event is so - it's a prestigious event that cyclists look forward
to. They're all out of hibernation, I'd say because they are so happy
that they could hit the tarmac again and bring fireworks to the fans. I
see our local boys are in very good condition. They have been having a
lot of small races, and they have. They're honing their skill, and
they're doing excellent. So, we should have a Belizean champion this
year, taking note though that the team's riders ride as a family, as a
team. And for cycling fans who don't know what it means to ride as a
team, you have to work for your leader. You have to put your eggs in
one basket and say, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWe will ride for such a person.' And we could get
the victory come Holy Saturday."
At this time, the estimate of participating riders stands at around 70