BELIZE CITY–After a three-year stretch of Belizean born champions, a foreigner, Mexican Hector Rangel, a Masters rider (over 35 years old) riding for the Belizean team, Benny’s Megabytes, came in all alone, after sweeping the bulk of the station prizes, to claim the Elite crown for the 25th KREM New Year’s Day Cycling Classic.
There was a lot of hype and great expectation of heroic performances from local riders going into this year’s KREM Classic, and it had a lot to do with the very attractive prizes, especially the unprecedented five $1,000.00 Elite station prizes along the 96 mile journey from Belize/Mexico border in Corozal to Belize City, where the race ended in front of Santos Diaz & Sons on Central American Boulevard. There were some early sprints for station prizes, where Belizeans Gregory Lovell, Giovanni Lovell and Ron Vasquez claimed their portion of the prize money; but foreigners took 24 of the 30 station prizes, including 4 of the 5 big $1,000.00 prizes, with eventual winner Hector Rangel (Benny’s Megabytes) taking over the race at Maskall Junction and claiming the last 20 station prizes on his way to capturing the first place honors in 3:50:26. In 2nd place was American David Santos (Bel-Cal, 3:52:25), and 3rd was Ron Vasquez (Western Spirit, 3:53:00). The rest of the top 20 finishers were: 4th Angel Tzib (Smart, 3:53:27); 5th Giovanni Lovell (Digicell-4G, 3:54:00); 6th American John Delong (Starlight, 3:54:00); 7th David Henderson (Smart, 3:54:00); 8th Nissan Arana (Predators, 3:54:00); 9th Byron Pope (Benny Megabytes, 3:54:00); 10th Henry Moreira (Smart, 3:54:00); 11th Oscar Quiroz, Jr. (Western Spirit, 3:54:00); 12th Gregory Lovell (Digicell-4G, 3:55:06); 13th Darnell Barrow (Smart, 3:55:11); 14th Patrick “Rainbow Kid” Bennett (Smart, 3:55:20); 15th Tarique Flowers (Benny’s Megabytes, 3:55:20); 16th Robert Liam Stewart (Benny’s Megabytes, 3:55:20); 17th Joslyn Chavarria, Jr. (Digicell-4G, 3:55:20); 18th Kenroy “Smokes” Gladden (Police, 4:04:11); 19th Philip Leslie (Benny’s Megabytes, 4:04:11); and 20th Luis Alberto Avila Balam (Predators, 4:04:11). From a field of 68 starters, 36 riders completed the Elite/U23/Masters race.
As deflated as many fans were when it was learned that a foreigner had taken over the Elite race, it was jubilation for many when a lone female, Alicia Thompson of Belize City (Belize Bank Swoosh) came into view across the Belcan Bridge and rode in all alone to gain her second Female championship of the KREM Classic (She won it also in 2006.). Reports indicated that a spill had occurred somewhere near the middle of the female race, which started out from Orange Walk Town, and Alicia took the opportunity to put some distance between herself and the other 6 female cyclists, including defending champion Shalini Zabaneh, who was injured in the spill. And they never caught her. It was the 15th running of the Female KREM Classic, and Alicia did the 52 mile ride in 2:58:04. 2nd was Kaya Cattouse (C-Ray Cycling, 2:59:27); 3rd Patricia Chavarria (BECOL, 2:59:27); 4th Gabrielle Lovell (Digicell-4G, 3:00:14); 5th Shalini Zabaneh (Sagitun, 3:00:14); and 6th Derlene Martinez (Sagitun, 3:25:54). One other female cyclist, Maricela Garcia (Sagitun), did not finish within the 30 minute time limit after the winner.
For the Juniors, who also started from Orange Walk, 16 riders started, and 9 completed the 52 mile ride within the 30 minute limit after the winner. With back to back Junior winner Tariq Flowers now moving up to elite, a new Junior champion was crowned, and it was 17 year old Yan Cattouse (C-Ray, 2:43:17) winning the sprint to the finish line; 2nd was 16 year old Kaydine Pinelo (Police, 2:43:17); 3rd 16 year old Anthony Marin (Cabral/Marin, 2:43:17); 4th Darien Anderson (Smart Junior, 2:43:17); 5th Shane Jones (Chavarria Cycling, 2:47:47); 6th Shaun Codd (Police, 2:47:47); 7th Michael Grajalez (Mando’s Cycling, 2:52:47); 8th Brian Sutherland (Cabral/Marin, 2:52:47); and 9th Derrick Chavarria (Chavarria Cycling, 3:05:14).
There were also special prizes for the Masters and Masters Cat 4/5 categories, who rode along with the Elite from Corozal to Belize City. Top finishers were: Masters 1st Hector Rangel (MEX, Benny’s Megabytes); 2nd John Delong (USA, Starlight); and 3rd Henry Moreira (Smart). And for the Masters Cat 4/5: 1st Kenroy “Smokes” Gladden (Police); 2nd Michael Dennison “Big Wire” Lewis (Unattached); and 3rd George Abraham (Bel-Cal).
In its release today giving the final finishing classifications, the Belize Cycling Association congratulated all the winners and wished “a speedy recovery to all those who were involved in racing incidents, particularly Delawn Abraham and Shalini Zabaneh, who were injured.”
The KREM “Big Shilling” is gone into recorded history, and all those names which stood out in this New Year’s Classic will surely be closely watched when the time draws near for the next big cycling event, on Holy Saturday.