Sports — 21 February 2014
A star is born

A star is born – DigiCell Valentine Classic 2014 reveals new faces on cycling stage

A star is born

This morning, a young man from San Ignacio, originally from the village of San Antonio in the Cayo District, shook up the cycling world with a daring move in the home stretch of the 19th Annual DigiCell Valentine Cycling Classic here in Belize City.

The Elite/Masters/Masters 4/5 race started (at 8:00 a.m.) and finished (just before noon) at Leslie’s Imports on the outskirts of Belize City, after making the journey on the George Price (Western) Highway to Mile 46 and returned. And nowhere along the hectic route, with prominent team names and renowned past champions being oft repeated by Krem Radio announcers, was a certain rider’s name even mentioned. But as the race neared its climax toward the end, the name of Angel Tzib rang out loudly, as the unattached rider made a strong early move, while prominent teams/riders were sizing up each other; and before they could gather themselves, Angel was too far ahead for them to catch him. It caught the announcers, Mose Hyde and Matthew Smiling, as well as the fans gathered at the finish line, completely by surprise. Aside from enough strength in the legs after the 90-mile journey, it also took daring and bravado to make that first bold move, and Mr. Tzib proved he had no shortage of either in the post- race interview.

He hails originally from the village of San Antonio in the Cayo District, but he wore a cap marked TEXAS in big letters. They say “everything is bigger in Texas,” and this young man obviously is one who believes in the old Krem motto – “Play Big,” as he jokingly declared to everyone listening on radio that he was from “San Antonio, Texas.”

Mark Staine, another unfamiliar name, broke away early in the race, but he was caught around Mile 15 by the main peloton. Then Herman “Hijo” Requena jumped out around Mile 36 and maintained about a half-minute lead on the peloton going around the return mark at Mile 46, with a small group of 4 in hot pursuit. Those 4 included Leroy Casasola, Greg Lovell, Phillip Leslie and Liam Stewart.

By Mile 37 on the return journey, the main peloton had caught up with the chase group of 4, but “Hijo” still kept a 45-second lead. He was finally caught by Jairo Camos, who had separated himself from the peloton, around Mile 30 (La Democracia).

By Mile 28, Jairo was struggling, and it was clear that Hijo would not be able alone to keep away much longer from the chasing peloton.

With a growing southeaster in their faces as they neared Belize City, Hijo was soon caught, and before long there was another group separating themselves from the peloton as they passed Mile 9. First it was a group of 3 – Byron Pope, Darnell Barrow and Giovanni Lovell, but they were eventually joined by 4 others – Mark Staine, Patrick Bennett, Ron Vasquez and one Angel Tzib, in the last few miles to the finish.

Everyone was watching the big name cyclists, reigning Cross Country Champ Darnell Barrow and reigning Krem Classic Champ Byron Pope, and Ron Vasquez was also one to watch, as he had proven himself by winning the Ariel Rosado Memorial/Belmopan Classic in 2012; also, young Giovanni Lovell had burst out of the Junior ranks after a number of victories in 2013 to place 3rd in the recent prestigious 2014 Krem New Year’s Classic. The others – Mark Staine, Patrick Bennett and Angel Tzib – were relative “no names,” in terms of high finishing rank in any of the big races.

When “hell broke loose” in the last mile of the race, it was the unattached “no name” rider, Angel Tzib out in front and holding off the chasing field of attacking cyclists, all bent on catching him before the finish. But Angel was not only bold, but strong to the end, and he looked back briefly before raising his arms and crossing the finishing line a few bicycle lengths ahead of 2nd place Giovanni Lovell, riding for BTL, who was followed in 3rd place by Darnell Barrow, sporting the SMART colors. It will be an interesting rivalry between the phone companies in upcoming races.

The new champion confessed after the race that he has been riding for the past 7 years, starting with the Krem New Year’s Classic, and this was the first race he had ever won. We checked some records from recent Cross Country races, and saw that he has bounced around different teams – Pacz Tours, Western Spirit, Cayo High Road, and Benny’s Megabytes between 2009 and 2013, where his results were 35th, DNF (did not finish), DNF, 30th and 32nd, in that order. The new champion told us he plans to win more races in the future. And unconfirmed sources say that 26-year-old Angel Tzib has been offered a spot on a prominent cycling team.

Top finishers by category

The top finishers of the various categories in the DigiCell Valentine Classic 2014, according to the Cycling Federation of Belize release, were:

ELITE – 1st place Angel Tzib (Unattached, 3:55:49); 2nd Giovanni Lovell (BTL, 3:55:49); 3rd Darnell Barrow (SMART, 3:55:49); 4th Byron Pope (Benny’s Megabytes, 3:55:49); 5th Ron Vasquez (Western Spirit, 3:55:49); 6th Patrick Bennett (SMART, 3:56:17); 7th Raniel “Ray” Sanchez (BELCAL, 3:56:17); 8th Mark Staine (Benny’s Megabytes, 3:56:17); 9th Jairo Campos (Predators, 3:56:17); and 10th Gregory Lovell (BTL, 3:56:17).

U-23 – 1st Giovanni Lovell (BTL); 2nd Deezan Spence (Western Spirit); 3rd Brandon Morgan (Benny’s Megabytes).

ELITE 4/5 – 1st Giovanni Lovell (BTL); 2nd Patrick Bennett (SMART); 3rd Deezan Spence (Western Spirit).

MASTERS – 1st Raniel “Ray” Sanchez (BELCAL); 2nd Quinton Hamilton (SMART); 3rd Jose Choto (Western Spirit).

MASTERS 4/5 – 1st Stephen Bisset (Unattached); 2nd Santiago “Santino” Castillo, Jr. (Ride to Victory); 3rd George Abraham (BELCAL).
The Female, Junior and Youth races started at 8:30 a.m. and went to Mile 26 and back for approximately 50 miles.

FEMALE – 1st place Kerah Eiley (Unattached, 2:36:56); 2nd Shalini Zabaneh (Sagitun, 2:37:56); 3rd Kaya Cattouse (SMART C-Ray, 2:39:06). Alicia Thompson (Belize Bank Swoosh) won the station prizes going at Mile 10 and at Rockville.

JUNIOR – 1st place Delon Gentle (BECOL Uprising, 2:26:20); 2nd Delawn Abraham (Benny’s Megabytes, 2:26:20); 3rd Zahir Figueroa (BECOL Uprising, 2:26:20).

YOUTH – 1st place Devin Azueta (Cayo High Road, 2:35:01); 2nd Michael Grajalez (Mandos, 2:35:51); 3rd Dennis Arnold (Unattached, 2:35:51).

What’s next in cycling?

According to a Cycling Federation of Belize release on the next event on the cycling calendar is a Hills Circuit next Sunday, to be followed by the next big event which is the SMART Belmopan Classic on March 16.

After that, it is Cross Country time.

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