Saturday, April 4th 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: Belizean-American Justin Williams, older son of veteran rider Calman Williams, is the winner of the 87th Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic following a dramatic sprint to finish the race at the BTL Park.
It was another 140 grueling miles on the George Price Highway beginning just after six this morning, but Justin and his younger brother Corey Williams, dominated the race almost from its start and Justin became the first Belizean-American to take the garland of roses just after midday, finishing in five hours, fifty five minutes and 39 seconds.
There was an early break established near Rockville at Mile 20 which saw a group of five leave the peloton. They were later joined by six other top riders including former champion Shane Vasquez. This group of eleven led the peloton into San Ignacio in a brisk 2 hours and 35 minutes, just four minutes off the record pace set in 2009 by Marcos Antonio Rios.
On the return journey near Teakettle the group of eleven dropped Erwin Middleton and Richard Santiago and the resulting group of nine ran past Belmopan, establishing as much as a five minute lead. Near Cheers it split into two, with a final group of five on the lead: the Williams brothers; American Scottie Weiss of Team Starlight; Mexican rider Zahir Jimenez Godinez of Cancun and Belizean David Henderson of Team SMART Zoom.
The new champion said his younger brother told him to wait as it was all for him. He led the field from the Belcan Bridge up to about 300 yards from the finish when Weiss tried a surprise attack which he could not maintain, allowing Justin Williams to move ahead of him.
David Henderson placed third; following was Zahir Godinez in fourth and Corey Williams finished fifth. Sixth place went to Byron Pope of Benny’s Megabytes, seventh to American Chris Harkey, eighth to Guatemalan Manuel Rodas, ninth to Jose Choto and tenth to Colombian Jose Robles.
Henderson, son of former Police Commissioner David Henderson Sr, says he missed his chance to get in on the sprint final following Weiss’ last attack but believes he tried his best and is not disappointed by his finish, which is his best in the event thus far.
Williams admits he had to control his emotions from the excitement of being in the final group entering Belize City with the hopes of a nation on his shoulders, and fought hard
Justin Williams won an assortment of prizes and trophies including a guaranteed $6,000 and the Elston Kerr Cup, Jeffrey O’Brien Memorial Trophy, Altreith Smith Memorial Trophy and Ludrick Smith Memorial Trophy as well as a painting, a return ticket on Maya Island Air, a $400 shopping spree from Mirage Group, a weekend stay for two at Ramon’s Village in San Pedro valued at $1,000 and a case of Travellers’ Coconut Rum. Added to this are the “first-Belizean” prizes which include $10,000 from Massy United Insurance; $5,000 from the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports and $250 from LC Distributors plus a plot of land from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture.
Cycling Federation President Dion Leslie appeared relieved at the result, excited to finally give those “first Belizean” prizes away after a disappointing finish last year. He formally thanked all who participated.
Other notable Belizeans to finish are, according to the classification released by the Federation on its Facebook page: Leroy Cassasola, 16th; Shane Vasquez, 20th; Joel Borland, 22nd; Darnell Barrow, 23rd; Geovanni “Froggy” Leslie, 25th; Nissan Arana, 30th; Quinton Hamiton, 31st; Oscar Quiroz, 32nd; Ron Vasquez, 33rd; brothers Gregory and Geovanni Lovell, 35th and 37th; Michael Lewis 38th in his final Cross Country and Kenroy Gladden 39th. Only riders who completed the course within half an hour of the winner are counted as having officially finished the race, so two-thirds of the field including expected contenders Brandon Cattouse and Marlon Castillo have “DNF” – did not finish – next to their names.
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