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Holy Saturday Cross Country 2017

Why are we disappointed?

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Apr. 19, 2017–As the 89th running of the Annual Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic got underway at 6:00 o’clock on Saturday morning, April 15, a total of 78 cyclists took to the start line. The numbers have decreased significantly from the year 2007, when we saw the largest field ever of 135 participants at the start line. Of the 78 cyclists, 63 were Belizeans and 15 foreigners – 7 Americans, 5 Mexicans and 3 Guatemalans (including the defending champion from Guatemala). These guys would attempt to make their way from Belize City to San Ignacio and back to Belize City via the George Price Highway, and the first person to cross the finish line would be crowned the new champion.

After five hours fifty three minutes and five seconds (5:53:05), the crowds at the finish line were hit with some form of déjà vu when they saw the solo figure of the defending champion, Alejandro Padilla, making his way to the line. Twenty seconds later, American Patrick Raines and Padilla’s teammate, Alder Torres would cross the line in second and third places, respectively. The top three on this year’s podium has been cemented in the history books, all foreigners, at least until the drug tests return.

For years, as far back as I’ve been involved in cycling, and even before my days, the Belizean public have been major cycling fans … or at least around Cross Country time. People get all excited coming onto the Easter holidays, and plan their vacation to begin after the Cross Country race. Even Belizeans living abroad are sure to tune in and keep up with the action on Holy Saturday. We hear all the cycling chatter, and get all the remarks of the disappointment if a Belizean shouldn’t win. Well, this is one of those years; the Belizean cycling fans are again devastated. They are heartbroken, in fact; not only that a foreigner won, but a Guatemalan.

The general public do not know what it takes to win this most prestigious race. They only follow cycling on Holy Saturday, and all of a sudden they become cycling gurus and aficionados. Training without recovery is a waste of time.

When the final split was made on the return journey somewhere around mile 35, there were 15 men there; 8 Belizeans – Justin Williams, Brandon Cattouse, Nissan Arana, Oscar Quiroz, Giovanni Lovell, Joel Borland, Liam Stewart and Ron Vasquez; 1 Mexican – Rudy Rincon; 2 Guatemalans – Alder Torres and Alejandro Padilla; and 4 Americans – Bill Elliston, Patrick Raines, Chris Harkey and John DeLong. This is good news; our prime-time local boys are at firing line! Truth be told, our boys can only be as competitive as their training allows them to be. And, while for some of them the training is forgone by laziness, for the ones that actually excel it is rather a lack of time. The necessary time needed to train and be competitive with the likes of the invited foreigners is not attainable to them, because these guys have 8-5 jobs. In most cases, “hard labour” jobs at that.

Being able to train only 1 ½ – 2 hours in the morning time before work, and then going to work and physically working, is not sufficient to be competitive with these foreigners. In Belize, we don’t have any cyclist who is paid to ride their bike; cycling is a past-time – a diversion or recreation which serves to pass the time agreeably; an activity done for pleasure rather than work; a hobby; a sport, a game. So, if we continue to be blinded by the fact that our athletes in this country do what they do as a hobby, we will forever be disappointed in the outcome of an event such as the Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic.

Another critique from the general public: “Why Belizeans don’t work together to beat the foreigners?” The Americans come together on one team; they’re expected to work together (with the exception of Elliston); the Guatemalans come together on one team, and they’re expected to work together as well. Our boys are called selfish and all sorts of names for not working together. Again, truth be told, Belizeans who line up for the Cross Country are not all riding on one big Belizean National Team; these guys have their respective teams that they represent. Teams who invest their time and limited resources into their athletes. And if that is hard to understand, then I don’t know of a better way to explain it.

At the end of the day, members of the Guatemalan National Team are the only guys who aren’t working cyclists. They came with their game plan, and they executed. Respect needs to be given where respect is due. Those guys put in the necessary work to be able to ride the way they did, and control a 78-man field the way they did. Regardless of their nationality, they are athletes in this sport just like we are; only difference is, where they live allows them to choose sport as a job, and not just as a hobby.

Holy Saturday is now history, and within a week’s time, all the chatter and memory will fade until next year. But what remains is the fact that our boys will continue to work and train simultaneously, as they start to prepare themselves for 2018.

Top 20 overall: 1st Alejandro Padilla Miranda (GUA); 2nd Patrick Raines (USA); 3rd Alder Torres (GUA); 4th Ron Vasquez (Smart C-Ray Western Spirit); 5th Brandon Cattouse (Smart C-Ray Western Spirit); 6th Bill Elliston (USA); 7th Oscar Quiroz (Smart C-Ray Western Spirit); 8th Giovanni Lovell (Digicell); 9th David Flynn (USA); 10th Joslyn Chavarria, Jr. (Digicell); 11th John DeLong (USA); 12th Phillip Truppelli (USA); 13th Rudy Rinocn (MEX); 14th Kenroy “Smokes” Gladden (Kulture Megabytes); 15th Richard Santiago (Benny’s Megabytes); 16th Quinton Hamilton (Unattached); 17th Angel Tzib (Westrac Alliance); 18th Liam Stewart (Card’s Heating AC); 19th Chris Harkey (USA); 20th Herman “Hijo” Requena (Westrac Alliance).
The first three Belizeans hail from the “Smart C-Ray Western Spirit” Cycling Team, and the only other two Belizeans in the top 10 hail from the Digicell-4G Team. This has to be saying that these guys are doing something correct!

Respect to all the working Belizean cyclists who invest all the time they can in this sport in hopes of one day receiving the highest accolades for cycling in this country – the pleasure of proudly wearing the coveted garland.

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