By William Ysaguirre, Freelance Reporter
Belizean-American, Justin Williams of the BelCal cycling team brought home the garland, as he won the 87th annual Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic, organized by the Cycling Federation of Belize.
Ryan Bauman’s 2008 record of 5:40:12 was in no danger of being broken, as Williams clocked 5:54:39 on his 142.8-mile ride from the rolling start in front of Leslie’s Imports to the finish line in front of the BTL park in Belize City. Williams won the $6,000 first prize sponsored by Digicell 4G, the winner’s garland of roses from Florasol and a trophy. He also won four other trophies: the Elston Kerr Cup from Jex Trophy.com, a trophy from the Jeffery O’Brien family, honoring the four-time Cross Country winner, the Altreith Smith Memorial trophy from the Smith family and the Ludrick “Buno” Smith Memorial trophy. He also won a $400 shopping spree at Mirage, a round trip ticket from Maya Island Air, a weekend stay at Ramon’s Village in San Pedro, and a case of Coconut Rum from Travellers Liquors.
Williams also won several bonus prizes as the first Belizean to win the Cross Country since Darnell Barrow’s victory in 2013: he won $10,000 prize from Massy United Insurance, a $5,000 prize from the Ministry of Education and Sports, $250 from LC Distributors and a parcel of land from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
American rider, Scottie Weisse from Virginia, riding for the Starlight team from the USA, finished 30 feet behind Williams to win the $3,000 second prize, the Altreith Smith Memorial plaque and a $400 shopping spree at the Wings Store in San Pedro.
Belizean rider, David Henderson Jr of the SMART Zoom team won the $2,000 third prize and a trophy, and an overnight stay at the Barefoot Caribe in Caye Caulker.
Mexican rider, Yayir de Jesus Jimenez Godinez of the Cancun cycling team clocked 5:54:53 to win the $1,000 fourth prize and a trophy, while Justin’s little brother and teammate, Cory Williams, was hard on his wheel to win the $800 fifth prize and a trophy.
Byron Pope of the Benny’s Megabytes team led the chase group, clocking 6:01:07 to win the $600 sixth prize, while Weisse’s teammate, the 2004 Cross country champion Chris Harkey, took the $425 seventh prize. Mexican Manuel Rodas of the SMART Zoom team claimed the $325 eighth prize, and Jose Choto of the C-Ray Road Addikz clocked 6:01:21 to win the $225 ninth prize.
Colombian rider, Jose Robles, of the Western Spirits team, rounded out the top 10 to win a $150 prize. Rashawn Bahati of the Belize Link-UP team from the USA was 11th; while Mexican rider, Hector Rangel of the Benny’s Megabytes was 12th, and the 2005 Cross Country champion, Bill Elliston of the USA was 13th. John Delong of the Starlight team was 14th and Luis Alberto Balam of the Predators team was 15th ; all 11th to 15th place finishers received a $100 prize and a trophy.
Leroy Cassasola of the Santino’s “Ride to Victory” team was 16th, Tarique Flowers of Benny’s Megabytes was 17th, Richard Santiago of the Digicell 4G team was 18th. The 2006 Cross Country champion, Shane Vasquez of the Western Spirits team was 19th, while American rider, Guy East of the Santino’s “ride to Victory” team rounded out the top 20.
Santiago’s teammate, Joel Borland led a second chase peloton to finish 21st in 6:04:07, while the 2013 Cross Country Champion, Darnell Barrow of the SMART Zoom team was 22nd in 6:04:10. Santiago’s teammate, Joslyn Chavarria outsprinted Giovanni Leslie of the Santino’s team to finish 23rd, while the Williams’ teammate, David Santos was 25th; and Angel Tzib and Mark Staine, both of the SMART team was 26th and 27th.
Erwin Middleton of Benny’s Megabytes and Nissan Arana of the Predators team won the first two station prizes as the race left the city, and Darnell Barrow won several station prizes as the first rider passing the Belmopan junction. Scottie Weisse took the station prize in Camalote, and Justin Williams moved to the fore to win a station prize at the Public Works compound in Santa Elena.
David Henderson was first over the Hawksworth Bridge to win several prizes at the halfway point, and at the turn-around at the Coronation Park in San Ignacio. Weisse took over the pace to win several station prizes on the return at Unitedville, Teakettle and the Belmopan junction. Shane Vasquez won the sprint for the station prize at Harmonyville, but Weisse remained on the pace to win another prize at St. Matthew’s Village and Cheers.
Weisse and Jimenez Godinez made a break at Cheers Restaurant at mile 33, and Henderson and the Williams brothers were the only three Belizeans to tag along. Jimenez-Godinez won the station prize at Mahogany Heights, and this five-man breakaway soon opened up a four-minute gap from the nearest chase group. Weisse continued to lead, sweeping the next three station prizes at the Outback Ranch, the Belize Zoo and at mile 25, and won four more prizes in Hattieville. Cory Williams and Jimenez challenged for the lead, but Weisse won four more station prizes between CISCO Construction and the Faber’s Road junction. Cory won 13 station prizes in the last miles entering the city and on the Central American Boulevard, with Justin winning the $1,000 prize at the cemetery passing the graves of the 1997 and 2001 Cross Country champion, Ernest “Jawmeighan” Meighan and his teammate, Ernest “Dangalang” Thurton, before the sprint to the finish.