Thanks to the sponsorship of SMART, the 32nd Annual SMART Belmopan Cycling Classic went off without a hitch, and it was record holder from 2008 Marlon Castillo emerging victorious from a field of close to 60 cyclists on Sunday, March 10, in a race that, for the first time, started and finished in front of the SMART headquarters building at Mile 2 ½ on the Philip Goldson (Northern) Highway. An exciting twist at the finish was the extra “lap” around the two roundabouts that gave fans more opportunity to appreciate the efforts of the cyclists as they neared the finish.
The Open/Elite and Masters rode together to Belmopan and back; while the Juniors/Youth and Women race went to La Democracia and back.
The Belmopan Classic, approximately 100 miles for the Elite race, as it comes so near to the Holy Saturday Cross Country, is traditionally viewed as a primer, a tune-up for the cyclists, and a preview for fans who are keen to assess the relative “condition” of the various contenders for the Big One. And sure enough, all the big names were there at the finish, with defending champion from 2012, Ron Vasquez, proving that last year’s showing was no accident, as he battled eventual winner Marlon Castillo to the final sprint, despite being hampered by a leg injury from a fall sustained earlier in the race.
For his part, Marlon “Diesel” Castillo, once considered the most promising young cyclist, and who has won all the major races except the Cross Country, seems to be back in top form, after a year’s absence following a tragic vehicle accident where he lost his best friend Ariel Rosado. Following Sunday’s race, team sponsor/manager Santino Castillo said Marlon and the team were dedicating the victory to the memory of Ariel Rosado.
Top Open/Elite finishers were: 1st Marlon Castillo (Santino’s, 4:29:08; record is 4:07:35 in 2008); 2nd Ron Vasquez (Belikin Western Spirit); 3rd Brandon Cattouse (C-Ray Cycling); 4th Byron Pope (Benny’s Megabytes); and 5th Richard Troyer (Belikin Western Spirit).
In the Masters category, 1st was Scottie Weisse (Veloshine) and 2nd Ernest Meighan (Santino’s).
Only 3 women rode on Sunday (Shalini Zabaneh and Kaya Cattouse are both out of the country), and it was veteran Marinette Flowers (unattached, 3:23:01) winning the sprint over last year’s champion Kerah Eiley (BECOL), with Gina Lovell (Telemedia) taking 3rd place.
The Juniors had a repeat champion, as Oscar Quiroz (Xibalban, 2:44:32) opened a 2-minute gap in the last few miles to cross the finish line alone. 2nd was Delawn Abraham (BECOL), and 3rd Zahir Figueroa (BECOL).
Youth category prizes were given to 1st Devin Azueta (unattached) and 2nd Michael Grajalez (Mando’s Pizzeria).
With the Belmopan Classic now in the history books, the “Cross Country Watch” is indeed in full swing, with cycling fans looking forward to the Wednesday night Krem radio show with hosts Kwame Scott and Roque Matus along with Fitzgerald Palas Joseph as they analyze this year’s unfolding chapter in the storied history of Holy Saturday Cross Country in Belize.