Digicell Valentine’s Tour, from February 9th to 11th, was a total of 4 stages and had a starting list of 54 riders, including one Mexican from Chetumal, and 12 Weekend Warriors brave enough to accept the challenge, including myself.
I dub this Tour, Le Tour de Brandon, as he WON 3 stages: Stage 1, Stage 3, and the final stage, Stage 4. The only stage he did not win was Stage 2, the Individual Time Trial, which was won by Joel Borland of Team Digicell who clocked a time of 13:05 for the 6 miles, and was the leader of the Tour from that stage to the final stage.
Second Place in this stage went to Brandon’s teammate, Oscar Quirós, who was just 3 seconds behind Joel Borland, with a time of 13:08.The rest of the top five in this stage were, Ernest Peenie Bradley, 3rd, with a time of 13:14; Brandon, 4th, with a time of 13:23; and Nissan Arana, 5th, with a time of 13:33. “Long story short”, these top 5 were all within striking distance under half a minute of winning this tour.
Meanwhile, I held my own with the big boys and was just happy to still be in this tour going into the final and Queen Stage, from Cayo to Benque and back to Belize. My goal was to simply be the oldest rider to finish.
Not having travelled to Benque in about 2 years, I was shocked to find the status of the road. I mean it was like a field of land mines, with pot holes substituting for the land mines. Anytime you dodged a pot hole, you hit another, making it extremely dangerous and very rough on our bikes. I therefore implore on the powers that be to fix this road. It was once a bike lover’s heaven; today it was hell on a bike!
As we arrived in Benque, the Heads of State went up Benque Hill (the one behind the Cancha and football field) at a pace of about 30mph. The damages of their actions were immediate, with 8 of us getting dropped instantly. At the turn at Benque Border we were 100 meters behind the Peloton, but then came the backside of that dratted Benque Hill again, and the gap widened to 200 meters. At this point, I knew it was going to be a lonely ride back to Belize for me and my unlucky 7.
The unimaginable happened when we got to Succotz Hill, with only 3 of us making it over: Isaiah Willacey, Ruthford Cunningham, and I. This was not bueno, since we needed as much legs as we could muster for the long 80-mile trek back to Belize City. I actually had a few swear words for those riders that got dropped, but trek on we did in what was a long and hot day in the saddle.
By the time we got to Hattieville, Cunningham decided to call it quits, despite our imploring him not to. That left just Willacey and I. At about this same time, Brandon was winning the Sprint for 1st Place at Leslie’s. I told Willacey “Hey Will, we will come in dead last; but we will be the two oldest men that finished. Let that and some cold Belikin beers at the line be our motivation to finish.” And so we did. We finished dead last, in 34th and 35th position.
Surprisingly, upon crossing the line some down-pressers were taking me and Willacey, as we say in Belize “mek Poppy Show”, because we finished 1 hour after the winner. I say, surprisingly, because I try to be a positive influence to all young cyclists out there, and the majority are respectful and grateful. However, there will always be that select few, true? I won’t call names; but they know who they are.
For example, with 12 miles to go in the Saturday Stage I got dropped, along with an Elite Rider, Ruben Cano, who is half my age. I thought he would have done as most cyclists do, and say, “Chiefi, let’s go”. Instead he attacked me, and dropped me.What is even funnier is that he was boasting about it after the race. Really!!! However, karma is the bad b-word because in the stage of today, he got dropped before me and did not finish. As it is, 19 riders did not finish this tour. (DNF)
However, this is a happy story, although some drama always makes for a better story. I therefore want to thank the Cycling Federation of Belize and aspiring president, Orson Butler. I also publicly DECLARE that I will support Orson in his bid for President. Believe me, I have been in this sport for 39 years, and Orson is the best option we presently have. He deserves a chance at the helm.
I also want to thank Digicell for another year of Sponsorship of this Valentine’s Tour. Isn’t it ironic that although Digicell sponsored and almost won this Tour, the other phone company, SMART did ride SMARTER. They actually secured Victory from the Jaws of defeat in the final few miles giving, Quirós the overall win, while giving my buddy, Brandon, 3 Stage Victories, including today’s Queen Stage and 2nd overall. Yes, I ride with Brandon, but that is another irony for another story.
Joel Borland, who came in 4th, and his dad, Digicell coach, Admiral Borland, are good people and hard working in this sport. They will rebound. Team Westrac, led by Nissan Arana, who came in 3rd overall, put up a hell of a fight and is also showing much promise. Much congratulations also to Liam Stewart, who at 49 years rounded out the top 5 in this hard tour. These are the names to look out for in the Cross Country Cycling Classic, which is a little more than 6 weeks away. In the meantime, today the spoils go to Oscar, Brandon, and Team Smart. Enjoy!!!
Erwin Middleton, Joel Borland, Phillip Leslie, Brandon Cattouse and Joshua Fuller in Stage 3, which was 2 laps on the newly paved Maskall Road.