First men to traverse the width of our country on a bicycle, Cyril Simmons and Leopold Neal, 1928
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Hector Silva
I have served my country in all elected capacities. Mayor, Legislator, Minister of government and Senator. I was born a villager of Carmelita, todays Santa Familia. My hobby all my life has been to research and research in order to find the truth.
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First men to traverse the width of our country on a bicycle, Cyril Simmons and Leopold Neal, 1928

The first non-stop cross country race was held in 1948 from Belize City to El Cayo and back.

When news of the expedition reached El Cayo the people were in their glee. They immediately began preparing a grand reception in their western traditional hospitality for which they are known. It was no surprise when two youths, Cyril Simmons and Leopold (Hardware) Neal took to the road on their bicycle to Belize City to participate.

Due to the condition in 1928, of the 90-odd miles trail to El Cayo, the expedition was to start on the 5th of April, and return to Belize on the 9th, so as to give riders some time to recuperate.

The path to Belize City, from San Ignacio, was a Horse Trail used when there was no River Transportation by river. Both my Maternal and Paternal Grand parents made their livelihood transporting chicle to Belize City & bringing merchandize to the West with their packs of mules. ( many others also did this.)

The WESTERN TRAIL followed, almost in line with the present day George Price Western Highway. Except by Roaring Creek it veered towards the river, passing by Melhado's Little Orange Walk, - Ben Stuart's Never Delay, Rock Donda, Castille- Meditation and More Tomorrow - then entering into the Pine Ridge and heading towards Rock Ville and passing towards the Sibun River and crossing over by the "HAMMOCK BRIDGE", over the Burden Canal and then passing by Schnarr Beach, into Yaborough Area by the Old SJC Loyola Park. (destroyed by 1931 Hurricane) .

NOW , WHO WERE THOSE TWO BRAVE PIONEERS WHO INDICATED THE TRAIL FOR THE CROSS COUNTRY BYCICLE RACE?

They were Cyril Simmons and Leopold "Hardware" Neal, who on the 1st of January 1928,at 3.00 AM, rode this trail and arrived in Belize City, by Edward's Park, (now Rogers Stadium) on April 1st 1928, at 11.15 AM. (They slept the night somewhere halfway the journey.)

SO IN APRIL 1928, from the 5th to the 9th, Mr Monrad Metzken and his committee Started the, " HOLY SATURDAY CROSS COUNTRY BICYCLE RACES " to this day ( This is for History's sake )

Mr. Edwards, like Mr Eddie Usher, Mr Neal and other Belizeans were owners of small Parcels of land outside City Limits. Government bought from some of these persons and built either homes or sporting fields. - On this Rogers Stadium, the Soft Ball Committee agreed to name it so. - Lindy Rogers was a sports enthusiast and sports announcer.

Ptrick Barrow's aunt was Mrs Ethel Simmons. -Their son Junior Simmons is active in San Ignacio. He has a very nice Guest Hoyse Named "THE HYAT."

The Cross Country Classic Cycling Race

The idea for the race originated with Belizean Monrad Metzgen, who on a trip to one of the villages on the Northern Highway in 1928 was struck by the number of bicycles Belizeans used to attend weekly cricket games in the Belize Rural area. He pitched an idea for a sort of cycling "expedition" to San Ignacio, testing the cyclists' ability to cope with a then-badly built Western Road (now George Price Highway), to the Governor, who immediately pledged support and offered a cup as a prize to the winner of the race. Other prominent Belizeans Monrad Metzgen spoke to, including medical officer Lieutenant Colonel James Cran, Matron L.M. Roberts of the Public Hospital, Royal Bank of Canada local manager Charles Beattie and Frans Dragten all donated money and trophies to the cause. The help of a young surveyor, Henry C. Fairweather, was also enlisted. On April 2, 1928, a parade and inspection of the cyclists was organized by Metzgen and attended by the Governor, Superintendent of Police and others, who congratulated the cyclists and sent them on a parade through the town's streets. Among the participants were two Cayo men, Cyril Simmons and Leonard Neal, who covered the journey between the two districts to prove it could be done and were specially commended for their daring. The official race kicked off on April 5, 1928 from in front of the courthouse at 5:00 AM. (Amandala)

The men traveled throughout the city and then hit the western road (or "trail" as some have called it) headed for Orange Walk, which was at that time the quickest connection to Cayo, though still 55 miles from Belize City (the cyclists expected to cover 90 miles on their trek). The roads were terrible, and the first rider into Cayo, Elston Kerr, was cheered for making it into town in about 13 hours. The men stayed through the Easter holidays, feasting, eating, playing cricket and soaking up the accolades of the Cayo faithful. They also visited Benque Viejo and San Jose Succotz, the westernmost settled areas in Cayo.

On April 9, the expeditionists set off at 5:00 AM, their progress reliably reported through of the telephone service. Comments issued back and forth among the populace about the overall good humour of the expedition and its participants were praised for being pioneers and behaving modestly in spite of their achievement.

Kerr, of Burrell Boom, finished first in 21 hours 29 minutes, 81 minutes ahead of second place Norris Wade, also of Boom. Third place was Bertie Cleland in 24:37. Walter Scott, easily the youngest ever competitor at 13, took 50 hours to finish but was awarded a prize anyway. Race organizer Metzgen participated and finished in 30 and a half hours. The race led to the formation of the British Honduras Cycling Association in June. (Amandala; Cycling Association)

1929-1950: Opening up the WestEdit

The second race was organized for 1929, and Kerr beat David Graham for his second title, becoming the first repeat champion. Wade won over Kerr in 1930. The 1932 race was canceled due to the 1931 hurricane which devastated Belize City the previous September. Other early champions included brothers Robert and Goldburn Ferguson, Jose Sosa, Ben Sanchez and Hendicott Croft.

Toward the middle 1940s, Altreith Smith and Aston Gill emerged as the best cyclists. Smith won the first one-day event in 1948 and Aston Gill won four times between 1947 and 1951.

Due to repair projects initiated on the Western Highway by Governor Alan Burns, some races were held on the Northern Highway. Donald Lightburn was the first winner on the Belize-Corozal circuit (in 1935 and 1936), followed by Jose Sosa in 1937 and 1938, Ben Sanchez in 1939, Goldburn Ferguson in 1942 and Aston Gill in 1947 (his 3rd victory). A few later races went to Orange Walk and back; this practice was discontinued after Mexico's Pablo Calderon won in 1971.


Cyril Simmons (Daddy Cyril) was born April 10, 1906, to Edith Simmons nee Humes and Joseph Simmons. He was the eldest of their four children (within their marriage). Joseph Simmons left Edith when Cyril was in his early teens. At this time, she already had her four children and was unable to provide for them, so she gave Cyril to Wilfred Young and Dudley to someone else. Cyril then worked as a shop clerk for Wilfred Young until he married Ethel Neal (Miss Et) January 30, 1930. That same year they made a loan from a Mr. Thurton in Belize City and bought an old car from Mr. Young. At that time, Daddy Cyril and Miss Et were living in a small house at 59 Burns Avenue that was given to them by Miss Etís mother. Daddy Cyril repaired and repurposed the old car into a truck which he then used to transport goods from Belize City to San Ignacio for the shops. He built his trucking business until he had three trucks, and he worked as a truck driver until his health failed him. Daddy Cyril died August 22, 1981. Their home (Daddy Cyril and Miss Et) was what is now called Hi-Et Hotel.

Cyril and his brother-in-law, Leopold Neal, were the first ones to ride on bicycle from San Ignacio to Belize City and back. They started out to El Cayo in early April 1928 and was to return to Belize City a few days later.

Lovingly contributed by his only daughter, Daphne Simmons Isaacs; two of his granddaughters, Tanya Simmons and Juliet Simmons; and one of his grandsons, Wilmot Simmons



Juanita Williams: This is my father, Gabriel Rodriguez, who participated in the first Cross Country as #45. He was the 16th rider to reach Cayo and the 6th to reach Belize City. He said it was a very difficult race

HOLY SATURDAY IN OLD EL CAYO

by Hector Silva

The Cross Country Bicycle Race was second fiddle to most of us here. What we knew was, that a Cayo Buoy, Cyril Simmons and his brother in law, Poly Neal were the first to ride from Old El Cayo to Belize City. - The rest to us was Greek..

BUT YES, we knew that top race horses would race on that day, at the El Cayo Savannah. ( SUBANA )

Yes, horses like Seige Narcus,- Robin, -Temoshenco, Lord Advocate, Nylon, Jalisco, Trigger, Conejo, Arrete, Blanco, War Chief, Furioso,

General George, Bob Hope, and many others.

So from early morning, we of the nearby villages began to treck the road to San Ignacio.

About 9.00 AM, we would hear Mr Percy Middleton, sounding his BUGLE with that sound of, HORSE RACE DAY. -

And the Marimba music lift up the spirit that it was celebration day.

The ( Subana ) in San Ignacio by then, was filled to capacity, with enthusiastic horse owners, horse race enthusiasts, Race Betters and watchers.

The competing horses, with colorfully dressed Jockeys, would walk to the Starting Point, on the road to Branch Mouth, unseen to the expectant public.

The TENSE MOMENT WAS, when Mr Luis Espat, I think Mercury car appeared far away, signalling that the horses were coming. - - This was followed by Mr Percy Middleton BUGLE CALL.

What a fun day this was, as races followed throughout the day.with MARIMBA MUSIC filling the hearts of the crowd. ( ALL PEACEFULL. )

This is to tell young generations that we had real fun in our young days. )

Top photograph courtesy Hector Silva

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