A foreigner, Ignacio Prado of Mexico, wins 33rd Annual SMART Belmopan Cycling Classic
Shalini Zabaneh wins for the females, and Tarique Flowers for the Juniors
The last big race before the historic Cross Country was a reminder to the Belize cycling community of the challenge facing our cyclists from international competition, as Sunday’s 33rd Annual SMART Belmopan Cycling Classic was won in commanding and intimidating fashion by a 20-year-old Mexican newcomer, Ignacio Prado, riding for the Benny’s Megabytes cycling team, whose lead rider, Byron Pope, was unable to secure a spot among the top 5 finishers.
In the Female category, reigning Cross Country champion Shalini Zabaneh was first, and in the Juniors, Tarique Flowers took the top honors.
Open/Elite/Masters – 100 miles
The 100-mile Open/Elite/Masters race left at 8:00 a.m. from in front of the Smart headquarters near Mile 2 on the Philip Goldson (Northern) Highway, passed through Belize City proper, travelled on the George Price (Western) Highway to Belmopan, and returned on the same route to the finish, with one circuit around the two nearest highway roundabouts before ending in front of the Smart headquarters.
Two cyclists, Herman “Hijo” Requena of Smart Cycling Team and Mexican Ignacio Prado of Benny’s Megabytes, reportedly broke away from the main peloton around Rockville at Mile 20 on the outward journey, and they were never caught, though the lead never went above 4 minutes. Around Mile 4 outside Belize City on the return journey, the young Mexican rider apparently said “adios” to his Belizean counterpart, as Hijo was unable to follow Prado who surged ahead, opening a wide gap, and coming in all alone to the finish to claim the victory, a full 48 seconds ahead of Requena, who took second place.
The top 5 finishers in the Open/Elite/Masters race were: 1st place – Ignacio Prado (Benny’s Megabytes, 4:34:09); 2nd Herman “Hijo” Requena (SMART, 4:34:57); 3rd Oscar Quiroz, Jr. (Western Spirit, 4:34:58); 4th Robert Liam Stewart (Benny’s Megabytes, 4:35:17); and 5th Brandon Cattouse (C-Ray Road Addikz, 4:36:32).
Special prizes were also given for top finishers in the Masters 4/5, Masters 35+, Elite 4/5, and U-23 categories.
For the Masters 4/5, 1st was Nehru Gilharry (Ride to Victory); 2nd Isaiah Willacey (Digicell 4G); and 3rd Wilbert Jones (Unattached).
In the Masters 35+ category, 1st was Robert Liam Stewart (Benny’s Megabytes); 2nd Scottie Weisse (Hincapie Lampierre); and 3rd Quinton Hamilton (SMART).
The Elite 4/5 category was led by 1st place Angel Tzib (Unattached); 2nd Giovanni Lovell (BTL Cycling); and 3rd Kenroy “Smokes” Gladden (Unattached). (Angel Tzib and Giovanni Lovell were also 1st and 2nd, in that order, in the recent Digicell Valentine Cycling Classic on February 16.)
And in the U-23’s, 1st was the same Open/Elite Belmopan Classic champion, 20-year-old Mexican Ignacio Prado (Benny’s Megabytes); 2nd Oscar Quiroz, Jr. (Western Spirit); and 3rd Giovanni Lovell (BTL Cycling).
Female/Junior/Youths – 60 miles
The race for the Females/Juniors/Youths started and finished at the same location, but they only travelled approximately 60 miles, to the La Democracia junction and back.
Shalini Zabaneh proved she is ready to defend her Cross Country crown, as she held off a strong challenge from her nemesis, Kaya Cattouse, who recently returned to cycling after a body-building stint. 1st place – Shalini Zabaneh (Sagitun, 3:19:54); 2nd Kaya Cattouse (SMART C-Ray, 3:21:24); 3rd Patricia Chavarria (BECOL, 3:21:26).
In the Junior category, 1st was Tarique Flowers (Benny’s Megabytes, 2:57:08); 2nd Delon Gentle (BECOL Uprising, 3:01:03); and 3rd Zamir Guerra (Cayo High Road, 3:01:08).
Top Youth finishers were: 1st Dennis Arnold (Unattached, 3:21:24); 2nd Michael Grajalez (Mando’s Cycling Team, 3:21:24); and 3rd Devin Azueta (Cayo High Road, 3:21:24).
The stage is set – the Country next
Most of the big names were in the Belmopan Classic, which is taken as a barometer check in their preparation for the Big One, which is now less than a month away – the Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic. Reigning Cross Country champion Darnell Barrow said after last Sunday’s race that he feels good, and will be ready for the Country.