Foreigners reign in Cross Country 2014; Belizeans 8th, 9th and 10th
After two consecutive years of Belizeans, Geovanni Choto in 2012 and Darnell Barrow in 2013, winning the Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic; and with reports of over twenty foreign riders descending on the Jewel for the 86th running of our Cross Country; cycling fans were more or less quietly acclimating ourselves to the reality that, after all, a Belizean three-peat was not likely in 2014.
But, hope springs eternal, and for a while there on Holy Saturday morning, Belizean cycling fans thought we were in the race.
A 5-man early breakaway group included 3 Belizeans – Geovanni Choto and Rafael Choto of C-Ray Road Addikz, and David Henderson of Benny’s Megabytes; they were accompanied by two Mexicans riding for Belizean teams – Juan Pablo Magallanes of Benny’s Megabytes and Florencio Ramos Torres of Predators.
There were 111 riders, including 10 major Belizean teams and 2 foreign teams, leaving from BTL Park at a few minutes before 6:00 a.m. on Holy Saturday. They rode behind the official vehicle at a leisurely pace along Princess Margaret Drive to Barrack Road, then Freetown Road and over the Belcan Bridge, on to Central American Boulevard, and then Cemetery Road, past Lord Ridge Cemetery on to the George Price (Western) Highway, making the official running start of the race a little after 6:00 a.m. in front of Leslie’s Imports. From there, they would take the journey on the George Price (Western) Highway to Columbus Park in San Ignacio and back to Belize City, to end on Princess Margaret Drive in front of BTL Park.
Things looked promising for the home boys, as the first 9 station prizes, from Cisco Construction (Mile 3 ½) to Rockville, were all taken by 2012 champion Geovanni Choto of C-Ray Road Addikz team; but after that, the station prize winners began to tell the story of this Cross Country, as the foreigners slowly asserted themselves, and then decisively took over the race from Camalote onwards.
The balanced sharing of station prizes among the initial leading 5-man group began when Mexican Florencio Ramos Torres (Predators) took the prize at Mile 23; at Mile 25, it was David Henderson (Benny’s Megabytes); Belize Zoo, Geovanni Choto (C-Ray Road Addikz); Mahogany Heights, Mexican Juan Pablo Magallanes (Benny’s Megabytes); Cheers Restaurant, Rafael Choto (C-Ray Road Addikz); Amigos Restaurant, Florencio Ramos Torres (MEX, Predators); Starlight Bar, Juan Pablo Magallanes (MEX, Benny’s Megabytes); Never Delay cutoff, Florencio Ramos Torres (MEX, Predators); George Price Blvd junction, Geovanni Choto (C-Ray Road Addikz); Belmopan cutoff and Guanacaste Park, David Henderson (Benny’s Megabytes); Buca & Matthew Hulse, Florencio Ramos Torres (MEX, Predators); Garbutt Puma Service Station, Geovanni Choto (C-Ray R. Addikz).
And then it happened. With the attractive $2,000.00 Camalote prize a mile away, the 2 Mexicans made their move, leaving the 3 Belizean riders in their wake.
Beginning with the station prize at the “Top of Hill” in Roaring Creek, Mexican Florencio Ramos Torres (Predators) and Mexican Juan Pablo Magallanes (Benny’s Megabytes) captured all the other station prizes going to Cayo and back, until their feast was interrupted on the return journey at Amigos Restaurant (Mile 32) by another Mexican, Hector Hugo Rangel (Benny’s Megabytes), who raked in all the station prizes from Amigos up to Prosser Fertilizer (Mile 8).
After Magallanes and Ramos Torres broke away approaching Camalote on the outward journey, they had pushed their lead to just over 3 minutes on entering San Ignacio, while a large chase group had caught up with the 3 Belizeans they had left behind. That chase group of 12 now consisted of 6 Belizean and 6 foreign cyclists.
As the two front-running Mexican riders maintained a blistering pace to hold on to their lead, a strange thing happened to the bunch of 12 chasing riders a few miles coming out of San Ignacio; because by the time they reached Running-W at Mile 63, reports were that the chase group had been split exactly in half, with the 6 foreigners opening a one minute gap ahead of the 6 Belizean riders. The leading duo still maintained their 3-minute advantage over the 6 other foreigners, which included Guatemalans Julio Miranda and Alejandro Miranda of Smart, Americans Andrew Myers and Christopher Harkey of Hincapie Lampierre, Mexican Hector Hugo Rangel of Benny’s Megabytes, and American David Santos of Bel-Cal team. The 6 Belizeans following were Quinton Hamilton of Smart, David Henderson of Benny’s Megabytes, Richard Santiago of Bel-Cal, Geovanni and Rafael Choto of C-Ray Road Addikz, and Joel Borland of BTL Cycling.
The leading Mexican duo were eventually caught by a break-away 3 from the foreigner chase group around Mile 35; and the lead configuration changed drastically, as another Mexican, Hector Hugo Rangel (Benny’s Megabytes) surged ahead to a 10-second lead over the new chase group of Mexicans Juan Pablo Magallanes (Benny’s Megabytes) and Florencio Ramos Torres (Predators), along with American David Santos (Bel-Cal) and Guatemalan Alejandro Miranda Padilla (Smart).
A spill had reportedly occurred somewhere around this part of the race, and Allen Castillo (Benny’s Megabytes) had to be taken in an ambulance, and Justin Williams (Bel-Cal) also suffered some scrapes and bruises, but continued riding.
With the dropped foreigners (Hincapie’s Andrew Myers and Chris Harkey, and Smart’s Julio Miranda Padilla) joining with the Belizean riders in mounting a chase of the group of 4 and the leader out in front, Benny’s Mexican Hector Hugo Rangel held on to the lead from Amigos Resaurant at Mile 32 until he was caught near the Burton Canal bridge at Mile 6 by the chase group of 4 foreigners.
Meanwhile, with the east wind freshening up in the faces of the riders, around Mile 12, Belize’s Marlon Castillo (BTL Cycling) broke away from the second chase group along with American Scottie Weisse (Hincapie Lampierre) and Guatemalan Julio Miranda Padilla (Smart).
It was now a frantic chase in the remaining 12 miles of the Classic, with the race commentators reporting a pace of 27-28 m.p.h.
At Mile 10 they reported that Marlon and his two companions were pushing a 30 m.p.h. pace and closing the gap on the front runners.
By Mile 6, the reports were that Mexican Hector Hugo Rangel had been caught, and it was now the Magallanes led 5 now being chased by Marlon’s 3, with a 1 minute gap between them.
Belizean hopes were rising as Marlon pressed the chase down the last few miles. But a look back at the station prize statistics in the final leg tells the story of a calculated and expertly ridden race by the eventual champion, Mexican Juan Pablo Magallanes of Benny’s Megabytes, who had a whole year to contemplate his second place finish to Belize’s Darnell Barrow in 2013.
After allowing Hector Hugo Rangel to interrupt the sharing of station prizes with his other countryman Florencio Ramos Torres, from Amigos Restaurant (Mile 32) to Prosser Fertilizer (Mile 8), Juan Pablo stepped up and took the prizes at “Mile 6 Bridge,” Old Belize and Cisco Construction. Florencio Ramos Torres took the prize at Mile 3 (Belize City Transfer Station), and Juan Pablo returned to take the prizes at Trinity Church, Fabers Road junction, Cave Tubing, Mile 1 ½ Turton Residence, and Mile 1, before allowing Florencio Ramos Torres to take the Reth Reyes Grave prize at Lord Ridge Cemetery. Juan Pablo claimed the prize at “Lizama Residence”; Alejandro Miranda Padilla took the prize at Cor. Banak St. & Central American Boulevard; Juan Pablo was back in front at the Cor. Vernon St. & C.A. Blvd; and then Florencio Ramos Torres was allowed to sweep the station prizes from in front of ICB Office on C.A. Blvd to Simmons Grill, before relinquishing the lead to American David Santos, who won the station prizes from ITVET Compound to Freetown Drug Store on Freetown Road.
All this time, Marlon Castillo was in hot pursuit along with American Scottie Weisse and Guatemalan Julio Miranda, but it would be too little, too late.
At the corner of Wilson St. and Newtown Barracks, Juan Pablo Magallanes made his final move, surging into the lead to take the last station prize donated by Thirsty Thursday & Digicell, and he stormed ahead to cross the finish line in front of BTL Park all alone, 3 seconds ahead of the next rider, to become the 2014 Cross Country Champion of Belize.
This race was indeed a “Classic,” and the pundits will do a lot of analyzing in the days ahead. Although the top 7 finishers were foreigners in this year’s race, our Belizean cyclists still proved that they can compete at this level. In 2013, the winning time was 5:46:49 (the record by American Ryan Baumann in 2008 is 5:40:12, in ideal weather conditions); this year’s race was finished in 5:45:03. In 2013, 27 riders, including 19 Belizeans, finished under 6 hours; this year, all of 42 cyclists broke the 6-hour mark, with 27 Belizeans among them.
The under 6-hour finishers in this year’s Cross Country were: champion, Juan Pablo Magallanes (MEX, Benny’s Megabytes, 5:45:03); 2nd Alejandro Miranda Padilla (GUA, Smart, 5:45:06); 3rd Florencio Ramos Torres (MEX, Predators, 5:45:06); 4th Hector Hugo Rangel (MEX, Benny’s Megabytes, 5:45:06); 5th David Santos (USA, Bel-Cal, 5:45:06); 6th Julio Miranda Padilla (GUA, Smart, 5:45:46); 7th Scottie Weisse (USA, Hincapie Lampierre, 5:45:46); 8th Marlon Castillo (BTL Cycling, 5:45:50); 9th Giovanni Lovell (BTL Cycling, 5:49:25); 10th Gregory Lovell (BTL, 5:49:25); 11th Cory Williams (Bel-Cal, 5:50:28); 12th Isaac Enderline (USA, Hincapie Lampierre, 5:50:28); 13th Luis Fernando Hernandez (MEX, Predators, 5:50:35); 14th Byron Pope (Benny’s Megabytes, 5:50:35); 15th Henry Moreira (Predators, 5:50:35); 16th Dwight Lopez (Bel-Cal, 5:50:35); 17th Shane Vasquez (Western Spirit, 5:50:35); 18th Manuel Ayala Balam (MEX, Depredadores, 5:50:35); 19th Brandon Morgan (Benny’s, 5:50:51); 20th Chris Harkey (USA, Hincapie Lampierre, 5:51:04); 21st Angel Tzib (BECOL Uprising, 5:54:40); 22nd Rashawn Bahati (USA, Bel-Cal, 5:55:03); 23rd Ron Vasquez (Western Spirit, 5:55:07); 24th Kenroy Gladden (Predators, 5:55:07); 25th Jose Choto (C-Ray Road Addikz, 5:55:07); 26th Andrew Myers (USA, Hincapie Lampierre, 5:55:12); 27th Richard Santiago (Bel-Cal, 5:55:12); 28th Sherman Thomas (Unattached, 5:55:12); 29th Robert Liam Stewart (Benny’s, 5:55:12); 30th David Henderson (Benny’s Megabytes, 5:55:12); 31st Anthony Taylor (USA, unattached, 5:55:12); 32nd Joeavin Leslie (Smart, 5:55:12); 33rd Ron McKenzie (Predators, 5:55:12); 34th Victor Manuel Garcia (ESP, Western Spirit, 5:55:12); 35th Quinton Hamilton (Smart, 5:55:12); 36th Darnell Barrow (Smart, 5:55:24); 37th Nissan Arana (Predators, 5:55:43); 38th Kenrick Grey (Unattached, 5:56:39); 39th Sean Howard (Western Spirit, 5:56:44); 40th Leroy Casasola (BTL Cycling, 5:56:48); 41st Joslyn Chavarria, Jr. (BECOL Chavarria, 5:56:58); Ernest Meighan (Ride To Victory, 5:56:58).
A total of 62 riders finished the race.