BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 15, 2019– When the early break in yesterday’s 30th Annual Women Cross Country Classic showed three Belizeans and two Mexicans in the lead bunch, Belizean fans immediately and instinctively began hoping and praying that those three Belizean women cyclists, which included perennial rivals and both two-time Cross Country champions, Alicia Thompson and Kaya Cattouse, would decide to work together to try and ensure a Belizean won the race. And so they did, as the post-race revelations confirmed.
At 8:00 o’clock yesterday morning, 11 women cyclists started the 73-mile race from Columbus Park in San Ignacio to BTL Park in Belize City, and 9 of them completed the ride within the 45-minute limit after the winner, Belizean Kaya Cattouse crossed the finish line.
With two foreigners, both Mexicans, included in the small field of women cyclists, it was generally accepted that they would likely be serious contenders for the championship; and another foreigner, American Jadine Riley, having taken the title last year, home fans had reason to be concerned that it could be back-to-back foreign champions in the Women Cross Country. And, while in all recent local races, including some Cross Countries, the highlight has been the raging rivalry between premier Belizean riders, Alicia Thompson and Kaya Cattouse, the race circumstances combined with their patriotic fervor seemed to dictate that they may need to put differences aside and cooperate to try and overcome the foreign competition.
Gabrielle Lovell was a factor early in the race, taking station prizes at Santa Elena and at Galen University in Central Farm; while Alicia had asserted herself to take the prizes at Running W and Go Slow. When newcomer to the Belize cycling scene, Nicole Gallego stepped up to capture the station prize at the Ontario Community Center, it marked a turning point in the race, which would be dominated the rest of the way by five names only, those of the two Mexicans – Maria Camargo and Brenda Iñigo, and three Belizeans – Nicole Gallego, Alicia Thompson and Kaya Cattouse. That was the race the rest of the way to Belize City.
The station prize count among those five on the way to the old capital tells a story worth noting, for its implication on the final stanza. Having taken a few months off the bike, and recently returning to full time training, former champion Alicia Thompson was not banking on the big prize at the end, and made sure to collect all of 12 station prizes along the way, her last being at the corner of Vernon Street and Central American Boulevard in Belize City. By contrast, Kaya Cattouse only stepped up for 1 station prize, at Garbutt’s Puma Station in Roaring Creek; Kaya was conserving her strength for the big one; while “new kid on the block” Nicole Gallego grabbed 4 station prizes, her last at Premium Wines & Spirits on Princess Margaret Drive before the final stretch to the finish line in front of BTL Park.
Interestingly, Mexican cyclist Maria Camargo seized 8 station prizes, her first at Teakettle Village and her last at Marion Jones Sports Complex on Princess Margaret Drive; while her teammate Brenda Iñigo, like Kaya, was satisfied with only 1 station prize, which she claimed at the Mile 5 canal entrance on the outskirts of Belize City. Brenda was obviously the Mexican to watch at the finish.
It has been suggested by at least one cycling aficionado, that a successful team effort by the 3 Belizeans against the 2 Mexican riders, could have resulted in a Belizean cyclist coming in alone; but that script might have been easier said than done. When fans at BTL Park greeted the five women cyclists tearing toward the finish line in a furious sprint for the garland, they were overjoyed to see a Belizean, Kaya Cattouse surging in front by a bicycle length, and followed closely behind by another Belizean, Alicia Thompson, with Mexica Brenda Iñigo and Belizean Nicole Gallego right on her back wheel, and followed by Mexican Maria Camargo in fifth place.
In the celebratory atmosphere at the post-race interviews, all three Belizean top finishers were quick to declare that “we rode for country,” signaling the cooperation that they engaged in during the ride to give a Belizean, in this case Kaya, who, like Brenda Iñigo, had sacrificed the station prizes, her best chance to be strong at the finish. And Kaya brought home the garland for Belize! What a race!
After reviewing the tape, cycling officials announced that there was a dead-heat at the finish between Belize’s Nicole Gallego and Mexico’s Maria Camargo, so they shared 3rd place.
Joining the field after a few years retirement, and completing the ride within the official limit, was 5-time Women Cross Country Champion, Shalini Zabaneh.
Official finishing list included: Champion – Kaya Cattouse (C-Ray/Banner Cycling, 3:29:10); 2nd Alicia Thompson (Belize Bank Swoosh, 3:29:10); 3rd Nicole Gallego (unattached, 3:29:10); 3rd Brenda Iñigo (MEX, Trooper Cycling, 3:29:10); 5th Maria Camargo (MEX, Trooper Cycling, 3:29:10); 6th Gabrielle Lovell (unattached, 3:56:03); 7th Taralee Ordonez (C-Ray/D. Banner Cycling, 4:00:31); 8th Jane Usher (Sagitun, 4:11:56); and 9th Shalini Zabaneh (Sagitun, 4:11:56).
The trophy for the Youngest Rider went to 19-year-old Taralee Ordonez.