New champions of 23rd Krem New Year’s Classic – David Henderson (Elite), Shalini Zabaneh (Women), Tarique Flowers (Junior)
The New Year started with a “bang” indeed, as there was bright sunshine on the morning of January 1, and the 23rd running of the Krem New Year’s Cycling Classic, from the Corozal border to Belize City, went off without a hitch or a spill, despite the absence of an official Belize Cycling Association executive.
All the big name cyclists were there, but in the Elite and Junior male races there were new names entered into the record book of past Krem Classic champions, as U-23 rider David Henderson, Jr. beat all the big boys in the Elite/Open race, and newcomer, 16-year-old Tarique Flowers surprised the Junior field by taking the top prize in impressive fashion. In the Women race, former 3-time Krem Classic champion Shalini Zabaneh, who was dethroned by Kaya Cattouse last year, came back to claim #4, as she overpowered all competitors in the last leg of an aggressive 55-mile ride from Orange Walk Town Hall to become the Krem Classic Women Champion 2013.
David Henderson, Jr. wins the big one
46 riders started at 9:00 a.m. from the Free Zone near the northern border in Corozal, and 44 finished the 93-mile ride to the finish on Central American Boulevard in Belize City on New Year’s Day to mark the 23rd running of the Krem New Year’s Day Cycling Classic. The favorites going into the race were the Belikin Western Spirit team riders, featuring defending Krem Classic champion and current Cross Country champion Geovanni Choto. But the surprise of the day was the return to prominence of the Santino’s team, who took 4 of the top 5 positions and swept most of the station prizes. For good measure, their renowned veteran Ernest “JaJa” Meighan showed he still has some speed in those legs, as he grabbed the big $1,000.00 station prize for his Santino’s team at Shell One Stop in Orange Walk Town. Western Spirit’s Geovanni Choto did make a move during the middle of the race, but Santino’s Marlon “Diesel” Castillo, just back from a year’s hiatus, asserted himself and did some powerful riding to bring his teammates back in the race. Byron Pope of Benny’s Megabytes was very much in the race along with his teammate Mark Staine, and they took consecutive station prizes at Carmelita Village and Mile 35, but thereafter all station prizes belonged to the Santino’s team. Byron said he suffered a puncture around Maskall, throwing him out of contention.
When the anxious crowd saw the front runners come across the Belcan Bridge for the final stretch, it was all Santino’s, with David Henderson, Jr. taking the championship in 4:05:00, less than a bicycle length ahead of 2nd place teammate Gregory Lovell (Santino’s). Their teammate Darnell Barrow (Santino’s) arrived in 3rd place a few seconds later in 4:05:20. 4th was Mexican Donizetti Aburto-Vasquez (Depredadores, 4:05:29); 5th Marlon Castillo (Santino’s; he still holds the record of 3:29:55, set in 2009); 6th Mark Staine (Benny’s Megabytes); 7th Geovanni Choto (Belikin Western Spirit); 8th Mexican Juan Manuel Yapur (unattached); 9th Byron Pope (Benny’s Megabytes, 4:09:12); 10th Jairo Campos (Benny’s Megabytes); 11th Jose Choto (Belikin Western Spirit); 12th Manuel Ayala-Balam (MEX, Depredadores); 13th Edgar Nissan Arana (D & C Cycling); 14th Kenroy “Smokes” Gladden (unattached); 15th Leroy “Casa” Casasola (Santino’s); 16th Ernest “JaJa” Meighan (Santino’s); 17th Edwardo Lada-Cocom (MEX, Depredadores); 18th Julio Dzul (MEX, Depredadores); 19th Roger Troyer (Belikin Western Spirit); and 20th Herman “Hijo” Requena (Benny’s Megabytes).
Shalini regains the crown
Only 6 females left from the Orange Walk Town Hall at 9:35 a.m. in the highly anticipated clash between reigning champion Kaya Cattouse, considered the best female sprinter, and former 3-time champion Shalini Zabaneh, acknowledged as the best pacer. Veteran former champion Marinette Flowers had joined Kaya under the Smart/C-Ray team banner; while Shalini’s former teammate Kerah Eiley teamed up with bright prospect Patricia Chavarria on the BECOL team. Gina Lovell, another former Krem Classic champion, was the sole Telemedia rider; and likewise, Shalini rode alone for Sagitun.
There was reportedly a lot of “cat and mouse” in this one, as Shalini made repeated attempts to “get away” from Kaya, to avoid having to face her in a final sprint, and Shalini was eventually successful. Kerah did a lot of work for teammate Patricia, who made a strong move late in the race, taking the station prizes at Maheia’s and Mile 3. But she couldn’t hold the pace against Shalini, who broke away in the final mile of the race, crossing the finish line in “solo” fashion, for her 4th Krem Classic victory.
All 6 participants completed the Women’s race: 1st Shalini Zabaneh (Sagitun, 3:12:23; she holds the record of 2:49:23, set in 2008); 2nd Patricia Chavarria
(BECOL, 3:12:55); 3rd Kaya Cattouse (Smart/C-Ray, 3:12:58); 4th Kerah Eiley (BECOL, 3:12:58); 5th Gina Lovell (Telemedia, 3:17:44); and 6th Marinette Flowers (Smart/C-Ray, 3:23:48).
Tarique, new kid on the block
The Junior race, which followed the same 55-mile route and started 5 minutes before the females, had 13 riders at the start, but only 11 survived the journey. Last year’s Krem Classic Junior Champion, Oscar Quiros, Jr., like the previous Krem Classic Elite and Women winners, had gone on to win the Junior Cross Country in 2012; but he suffered the same fate on this New Year’s Day as the former Elite and Women champions. After Zamir Guerra and Anfernee Young shared a couple early station prizes, the race all belonged to a young man, 16-year-old Tarique Flowers, riding his first major race, who broke away from Anfernee around Mile 14, and swept all the station prizes to Belize City, coming in all alone for his first Krem New Year’s Classic win.
The Junior record of 2:18:55, set by Daniel Choto in 2010, remains intact. This year’s Junior champion is Tarique Flowers (Telemedia, 2:45:49); 2nd was Giovanni Lovell (Telemedia, 2:47:33); 3rd Joslyn Chavarria, Jr. (2:50:00); 4th Delon Gentle (Cayo Uprising, 2:50:06); 5th Phillip Mencias (unattached); 6th Philton Butler (M&M Engineering); 7th Brandon Morgan (Telemedia); 8th Delawn Abraham (Cayo Uprising); 9th Oscar Quiros, Jr. (Xibalban Cycling); 10th Zamir Guerra (unattached); and 11th Michael Wagner, Jr. (Cayo Uprising).
Finish cash prizes and trophies were distributed to winners after all the races were completed and finishing positions confirmed by race officials. Station prizes will follow as planned.