BELIZE CITY, Sun. March 29, 2015–Tears of joy rolled down the eyes of Ernest Bradley, 16, moments after he rolled past the finish line unchallenged to become the 16th Annual BEL Junior Cross Country Classic champion today.
The 3rd form Gwen Lizarraga High School student, who is the son of the late two-time Holy Saturday Cross Country champion, Ernest “Jawmaine” Meighan, was among a field of 33 riders who lined up at the San Jose Succotz ferry at Mile 71 on the George Price Highway at 9:00 this morning under overcast skies.
Shortly after the cyclists took off, there were a series of sustained attacks, launched mainly by members of the SMART Zoom Junior Cycling Team, who evidently went into the race with every intention to execute the game plan that they had in mind.
The hilly terrain of the Cayo District quickly took its toll on the riders – who were grouped as Youth (riders between the ages of 11 to 15) and Juniors (those who are 16 to 18 years old) – and by the time the bunch entered San Ignacio Town, 9 participants had dropped out, while Darien Anderson, 16, of Team Smart Zoom opened up a 1 minute 51 second lead ahead of the main peloton.
Anderson, a third former at Belize City’s Anglican Cathedral College (ACC), would go on to grab the first station prize at the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) Kontiki sub-station in San Ignacio, and despite being chased by Shaquir Tillett of Team Police and Juhawi Ysaguirre of the Cabral/Marin Cycling Team, he remained in sole command of the race all the way to the village of La Democracia at Mile 31, earning another six station prizes in the process.
In the meanwhile, the main group – which had melted down to a total of 19 riders, and which had been behind by as much as three minutes – remained on his trail, and just before the race reached the Belize Zoo at Mile 27, Anderson was reeled in by the hungry peloton.
The new configuration of the race saw another flurry of attacks from relentless contenders representing the 8 teams which signed up.
The most serious of those attacks, however, was initiated by Ernest Bradley (who also rides for SMART Zoom) just before Mile 19, and when no one responded, he took the opportunity to extend his lead by well over a minute by the time he won his first station prize at the Hattieville Police Station.
The peloton kept chasing Bradley, but it soon became clear that he was in no mood to relinquish the two-minute lead that was created as he captured the three remaining station prizes on the final leg of the race on the way to Belize City.
In spite of a desperate pursuit on the part of his competitors, Bradley – who amazingly had only been training for the past three months – rode his way into the history books by finishing the race in record time.
When Bradley crossed the finish line at Mile 2 in front of Leslie’s Imports in Belize City, he clocked in at 3 hours 30 minutes and 52 seconds – shattering the previous record of 3 hours 37 minutes and 48 seconds which was set by Byron Pope in 2007.
Also of note is that 18 years ago on this date, Bradley’s father – who was senselessly murdered in August of 2014 – won his first Holy Saturday Cross Country title in 2007 at a time when foreign riders had been taking home the coveted garland for several consecutive years.
Bradley was emotional after his remarkable win, and therefore dedicated it to the memory of his father who remains an icon in the local cycling arena.
“This da fi my pa, Rest in Peace Ernest “Jawmaine” Meighan”, he told us while being flanked by a crowd of jubilant relatives, friends and well-wishers, including his mother, Tanya Bradley.
Bradley won an $800 cash prize and a trophy from BEL; a tablet from VIP Wireless, and a 4-year scholarship courtesy of the Ministry of Education.
It goes without saying though, that the race was completely dominated by the SMART Zoom Junior Cycling Team, which not only won all station prizes along the way, but also seized the top three positions at the end of the race.
Darien Anderson and Kaydine Pinello, 16, both of SMART Zoom, came in second and third respectively, while Anthony Marin, 16, of Cabral/Marin Cycling Club(fourth), and Yan Cattouse, 17, of C-Ray Cycling Club (fifth) rounded out the top five finishers.
Since there was a sprint for those prizes, all four cyclists were recorded at a finishing time of 3 hours 31 minutes and 37 seconds.
In the youth category, Brian Sutherland, 15, of Cabral/Marin Cycling Club was victorious. He won a $300 cash prize from BEL and a tablet from VIP Wireless.
Patrick Williams, 14, another SMART Zoom rider, was second place, while Shaun Codd, 14, of Chavarria Cycling Club finished third.
Jalen Castillo, 14, of the Dangriga-based Shake and Bake Cycling Team came fourth, and his teammate Damian Usher, 15, was fifth.