It was an overcast and rainy New Year’s Day, but it spelled cooling “showers of blessing” on the large peloton of cyclists, male and female, that joined in the tradition of the pedaling expedition from the northernmost districts to Belize City on the occasion of the 22nd Annual Krem New Year’s Day “Sugar and Cream” Cycling Classic. And when it was over, a Belizean male had regained the prestigious Elite championship, in the person of Geovanni Choto of Western Spirit Cycling Team from the Cayo District; while the two-time defending female champion Shalini Zabaneh was dethroned by new cycling star Kaya Cattouse of C-Ray Cycling Team.
The Elites, Under 23’s and Masters Cat 2&3 all left from the Corozal Free Zone near the Santa Elena border at 9:00 a.m., travelling 91.4 miles to the finish line on Central American Boulevard in Belize City. The Females, Juniors/Youth and Masters Cat 4&5 races all left from in front of the Town Hall in Orange Walk, beginning around 9:30 a.m. with staggered starts a few minutes apart, and journeyed 55 miles to the same finish line in Belize City.
Elites, Under 23’s, Masters Cat 2&3
62 cyclists, including defending Elite champion Costa Rican Marco Salas-Arias and 3 other foreign riders, started the big race from Corozal Free Zone; and 34 finished. Salas was the sole foreigner on his Benny’s Megabytes team; while 3 Americans, including former Cross Country Champion Chris Harkey, comprised the VeloShine Team. Byron Pope, who had lost his little brother to gun violence the day before the race, jumped into the lead early, taking the first two station prizes at San Roman and San Joaquin villages. Thereafter, station prizes were won by Geovanni Choto, Edward Reyes, Ron McKenzie, and Peter Choto, before Marlon Castillo swept 7 consecutive station prizes, beginning at Mile 35 and ending at the Maskall Junction near Mile 20. With Marlon apparently spent from the solo effort, American John Delong took over from the Salt Creek Junction to Maxboro Junction, before Peter Choto stepped up to take the prize at the Burrell Boom marker. Thereafter, the station prizes were shared between Byron Pope and Geovanni Choto, who grabbed the last 12 from Shell Service Station in Ladyville until he crossed the finish line alone in Belize City for the Krem Classic championship in a time of 3 hours 43 minutes and 10 seconds. Byron followed a half minute later. (The record of 3:29:55 set by Marlon Castillo in 2009 remains intact.) Geovanni’s victory broke a two-year streak of foreign domination of the Krem Classic, much to the satisfaction of Belizean fans.
Top 10 Elite finishers in the 2012 Krem New Year’s Classic were: 1st place Geovanni Choto (Western Spirit, 3:43:10, 24.57 m.p.h.); 2nd Byron Pope (Benny’s Megabytes, 3:43:41); 3rd Peter Choto (Western Spirit, 3:43:43); 4th American John Delong (VeloShine Cycling Team, 3:43:44); 5th Edward Reyes (D&D Cycling Team, 3:43:45); 6th Marlon Castillo (Santino’s, 3:43:49); 7th Leroy Casasola (Santino’s, 3:44:56); 8th Gregory Lovell (Santino’s, 3:45:01); 9th Allen Castillo (Benny’s Megabytes, 3:45:01); 10th Belize based Panamanian Christian McNish (Benny’s Megabytes, 3:45:10).
In the U23 category, 1st was Peter Choto (Western Spirit, 3:43:43), 2nd Edward Reyes (D&D Cycling, 3:43:45), and 3rd Geon Hanson (Capital City Cycling, 3:54:32).
For the Masters Cat 2&3, 1st was Orson Butler (M&M Engineering, 3:54:55), 2nd Michael Lewis (Unattached, 3:54:56), and 3rd Frederick Sutherland (Bel-Cal Cycling, 3:54:56).
There were only 6 female cyclists, all Belizean, at the start of the race in Orange Walk Town, and all 6 completed the journey to Belize City, with Kaya Cattouse (C-Ray) beating defending champion Shalini by a wheel in the sprint to the finish line, to claim her first ever Krem New Year’s Classic championship.
A few days earlier, Kaya had campaigned on Krem’s WUB for a return to an all-female race, as opposed to riding along with the Masters Cat 4&5 as in recent races. The association and race organizers agreed to the change, and suddenly there was interest in the female race, where it was back to the “fly and crawl” tactics on the road, until a group of 4 made the final dash on the home stretch from the Belcan Bridge to the finish line near Santos Diaz & Sons. Though still the dominant female rider on the long journey, Shalini was unable to “shake off” her opponents on the road, and in the final sprint, Kaya still had enough in her “tank” to surge ahead near the finish line to take the championship in a time of 3 hours 11 minutes and 20 seconds for an average of 17.24 m.p.h. After the race, Kaya credited her teammate Kirah Eiley with giving her much needed support during the race. (The female record is 2:49:23, set by Shalini Zabaneh in 2008.)
The finishing roster for the 2012 Female Krem Classic includes: 1st place Kaya Cattouse (C-Ray Cycling Team, 3:11:20), 2nd Shalini Zabaneh (Sagitun Cycling Team, 3:11:20), 3rd Patricia Chavarria (AAA Loans Cycling, 3:11:21), 4th Gabrelle Lovell (Unattached, 3:11:21), 5th Kirah Eiley (C-Ray Cycling, 3:11:27), and 6th Maricela Garcia (Sagitun Cycling, 3:24:43).
Juniors & Youths
21 of the 22 starters completed the 55-mile race for Juniors (under 18 years) & Youths (under 16 years). Among the finishers were a Honduran and a Mexican rider, both riding on the Typhoon Cycling Team, but the championship remained in Belizean hands, in the person of Oscar Qurious, Jr. of the Cayo Uprising Team, who rode in alone in 2 hours 41 minutes 10 seconds for an average of 20.47 m.p.h., a minute ahead of second place Deezan Spence. (The Juniors record of 2:18:55 was set by Daniel Choto in 2010.). The top 5 Junior finishers were: 1st place Oscar Qurious, Jr. (Cayo Uprising, 2:41:10), 2nd Deezan Spence (D&D Cycling, 2:42:13), 3rd Zahir Figueroa (Cayo Uprising, 2:43:11), 4th Giovanni Lovell (Unattached, 2:43:12), and 5th Riis Cattouse (C-Ray Cycling, 2:43:34).
In the Youths category, 1st was Zahir Figueroa (Cayo Uprising, 2:43:11), 2nd Mexican Yhaszus Martin (Typhoon, 2:43:45), and 3rd Delawn Abraham (Benny’s Megabytes, 2:43:45).
Masters Cat 4&5
Only 7 riders comprised the Masters Cat 4&5 race, and they included the 5-man Mexican team Depredadores along with only 2 Belizeans of the M&M Engineering Masters Team. And the Mexicans took 1st and 2nd place in this 55-mile race. 1st was Manuel Herrera-Busto (Depredadores, 2:37:15), 2nd Carlos Castelan De La Torre (Depredadores, 2:38:20), and 3rd Robert Liam Stewart (M&M Engineering, 2:39:16).