The hallmark event for the Easter weekend is the Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic which is in its 89th running. The event is one that is very much anticipated by persons both home and abroad. Kwame Scott is the Public Relations Officer of the Cycling Federation of Belize; he spoke of the upcoming race.
“So this Saturday at ten minutes before six all the prime time riders including Belizeans and foreigners will leave from the BTL park en route to San Ignacio. We leave with what we call a ‘lead out’ which is a ceremonial ride through the streets of the city at a leisurely pace. So we travel due west past the Princess Hotel from the BTL Park down Freetown road, around the Flag Monument near Palotti, over the BELCAN bridge and then down Central American Boulevard, we will make a right through the Lord Ridge Cemetery and we have what you call a flying start there is no stop right in front of Leslie’s Imports that is where the gun goes of that is when the time starts clicking and that is where the racing begins. We travel from there the entire length of the George Price Highway to San Ignacio where we make a U turn around the Columbus park and head back to Belize City finishing at the BTL Park. Only that when we cross the BELCAN bridge we enter via the Princess Margaret Drive, past the KHMH, the Marion Jones Sporting Complex, Hour bar to BTL park. There will be fabulous prizes along the way, the last count is over 100 station prizes along the route, a logistical nightmare I must say but we must give thanks to all of our donors for making it possible. I must say that we are expecting somewhere around 90-100 riders which will include some 20-25 foreigners which should include the defending champion Guatemalan Alejandro Padilla, past two time champion Chris Harkey, our friends from the north like Quintana Roo and the Yucatan.”
The cycling sport is not short of up and coming riders and each year there is a set of persons who are to be looked at as potential top finishers and perhaps even the champion. Scott spoke of a few that we should keep an eye on.
“Judging from the start of the year we have a group of Belizean cyclists who have been showing great promise and these in no particular order would include Oscar Quiroz, Ron Vasquez, Brandon Cattouse, Tareek Flowers, Giovani Lovelle, Joel Borland, Justice Chavaria Jr., Nissan Arana and a few more others. First place for the 89th Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic will walk away with $6000 in cash, he will get about four or five trophies, one would be the Elston Kerr trophy donated by Jex Trophies then there is the Jeffrey Obrian Trophy donated by the friends and family of Jeffrey Obrian, then there is the Altridge Smith Trophy and there are quite a few others. In addition to that we have what we call and incentive prize which is the winner gets $6000 and if it is a Belizean then he gets that six thousand plus $2000 donated by Steve Benedict Auto Sales up in New York and I must say that this prize has been doubled because it existed last year but since a Belizean didn’t win the thousand dollars was left there and it was doubled to $2000 this year. In addition to that as an incentive prize there is also if a Belizean wins he gets $1000 license plate courtesy the Belize City Council which is one of the personalized plates. In addition to that there will be a round trip courtesy Maya Island Air and quite a few other things so its fully loaded so remember this is practically the richest race in the region hence why we have so many request from foreigners wanting to come and do the ride.”
As we mentioned, the event has been going on for almost nine decades and eleven years short of a century. For those who unaware of how it all got started, Scott gave us a brief refresher.
“89 years ago a few brave men decided to attempt to prove that you can travel from Belize City to Cayo by road. For those of us who don’t know in those days transportation between Cayo and Belize was primarily by river, primarily the route used by the Ruta Maya so to speak so little did they know that after a weekend expedition, because they left on Saturday and after partying they returned back on Monday, little did they know that 89 years later we would be celebrating one of the greatest, one of the most talked about, one of the picturesque cycling sporting events in the western hemisphere.”
The last five winners of the Holy Saturday Cross Country are Alejandro Padilla, Justin Williams, Juan Pablo Magellanes, Darnel Barrow and Geovanni Choto. There is an annual publication done each year called, The Tradition, produced each year by the Cycling Federation of Belize; it is now available for ten dollars each from any of its members.