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1st Annual Ernest “Jawmein” Meighan Mount Hope Classic

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By: Kaya Cattouse

As we approach the Cross Country season, the Mt Hope Classic is always a testing meter to determine the level of our local athletes for the big dance. This race is only 28 miles shorter than the Annual Holy Saturday Cross Country Classic.

In 2014, Marlon Castillo won the Mt Hope Classic and was the first Belizean to finish on Holy Saturday. In 2015, Brandon Cattouse won this race but missed the break away on Holy Saturday so he was a no show on the podium. In 2016, Nissan Arana won and was in the lead 6 man break away up until mile 29 on the return. So while the Mt Hope Classic allows managers to decipher who should be the bacon men and who should be the domestiques going into Holy Saturday, it also gives the cycling fans an idea of which Belizeans will be most likely to deliver a local victory on the big day.

Yesterday, the race started at 8:00 a.m. from in front of Leslie’s Imports en route to Mt Hope and back with 56 cyclists from the major local teams at the line; Digicell 4G, Westrac Alliance, Benny’s Megabytes, Smart, Imani’s, and Smart Jr. Of course there were also all the unattached guys (cyclist who aren’t on a team).

The first attack came from Herman ‘Hijo’ Requena of Westrac Alliance. This attack quickly formed a break at mile 5 consisting of 10 cyclist; Hijo and Keion Robateau from Westrac, Phillip Leslie and Mark Staine of Smart, Tarique Flowers and Ron McKenzie of Benny’s Magabytes, Jose Choto and Jesmar Guerra of Imani’s, Erwin Middleton of Digicell and Quinton Hamilton riding unattached. As usual, for whatever reasons, there are some dodgers from pacing in any break away, in this case, it was the Smart guys – Leslie and Staine. This caused gaps in the pace line which lead to Tarique Flowers attacking to close the gaps and subsequently eliminating Ron McKenzie from this group before even entering Hattieville. So what was 10, now became 9.

At mile 42 going, there were four guys trying to bridge the gap to the leaders; Joslyn Chavarria Jr of Digicell, Zamir Guerra of Smart, Ernest Bradley riding unattached and Ernest Banner a junior cyclist of Imani’s who was unfortunate enough to suffer a puncture before making it across to the break and because of the distance between the groups, he could not get a wheel change quick enough. This consequently ended the race for young Ernest Banner. The other 3 made it across to the 9 man lead group making it a 12 man break away.

At mile 44, Giovanni Choto of Imani’s and Nissan Arana of Westrac Alliance caught up to the leaders. This new addition formed the 14 man lead group that would go all the way to Roaring Creek together. At Garbutt Service Station in Roaring Creek, the jostling for the station prize resulted in other attacks from the guys. Joslyn Chavarria attacked up the double hill and he was followed by Masters Cyclist, Jose Choto. When a little gap was formed, this prompted Tarique Flowers to quickly jump across. All these movements uphill resulted in Herman Requena being the first to get dropped from the leaders. The lead was now down to 13.

In the peloton, it must be mentioned that unattached rider, Tariq Cano, was doing majority of the chasing in an effort to try and regain contact with the leaders. Because every team had representation up front, no one was as adamant as Cano to set chase.

There was a representative from every team in the lead group – Phillip Leslie, Zamir Guerra and Mark Staine of Smart, Tarique Flowers of Benny’s Megabytes, Joslyn Chavarria and Erwin Middleton of Digicell, Jose Choto, Giovanni Choto and Jesmar Guerra of Imani’s, Keion Robateau and Nissan Arana of Westrac Alliance, Quinton Hamilton riding unattached and Ernest Bradley also riding unattached. Notably, Digicell 4G and Smart did not have their known “bacon men” in this break away. Big names like Giovanni Lovell, Joel Borland, Oscar Quiroz and Brandon Cattouse.

The 13 man lead group made it all the way to the bottom of the monumental Mt Hope together. Phillip Leslie was eliminated from the group when his pedal arm broke off from his crankset at the bottom of the climb. Jose Choto went all out for the station prize at the top of the hill which was also the return point. Choto was the first to the top followed by U-23 phenomenon, Tarique Flowers then Giovanni Choto, Joslyn Chavarria, Zamir Guerra, Nissan Arana, Ernest Bradley, Erwin Middleton, Keion Robateau, Jesmar Guerra and Quinton Hamilton. This sprint to the hill top revealed that Mark Staine is no climber as he was also left behind. What was 13 now became 11 and this meant trouble for the Smart Team only having 1 representative left in the lead group.

These 11 guys were collaborating on the return to Belize City. At mile 51, the famous Old Man Hill, Jose Choto continued the attacking trying to win the prize at the hill top. Choto got the station prize and opened a gap. Tarique Flowers found this to be a threat and again, he quickly jumped across to Choto and the two of them began working together. This new development of a 2 man break away from the lead group forced certain guys from the remaining 9 to pick up the responsibility of doing the work. Flowers was the only representative from Benny’s but Jose Choto had his younger brother the 2012 Cross Country Champion, Giovanni Choto and teammate Jesmar Guerra sitting in the 9. In cycling terms, we would say that Gov Choto and Guerra were getting a “free ride”, at least until Jose Choto and Flowers were caught.

Due to the attacks and sudden changes in the tempo, Zamir Guerra, the last standing representative in the break away from the Smart Team was left at mile 50. The peloton caught him 6 miles later, at mile 44. The chase group of 9 was now 8 and now, there was no representation from the Smart Team. This caused major changes in the peloton, forcing the other guys from Smart to now try and get across to the leaders.

When the news of Zamir’s detachment from the leaders got to the Smart Team in the peloton, Brandon Cattouse started the attacking in an effort to bridge the gap. At Roaring Creek, there was a slight separation with Cattouse, Joel Broland and Angel Tzib. These 3 were trying to make it across. Liam Stewart set chase to bring these 3 back and before the Belmopan airstrip they were caught. At this point, Oscar Quiroz launched an attack and he was followed by Betram Brown of Westrac Alliance. These two dangled on the road between Chase group number 1 and the peloton. At 41 Brandon Cattouse tried again to make his way across, this time he was successful and hot on his trail was Giovanni Lovell who pulled his weight equally to get across to Quiroz and Brown. These four, Quiroz and Cattouse of Smart, Brown of Westrac Alliance and Lovell of Digicell 4G now became Chase Number 2.

Chase Number 3 made their way out the peloton at mile 35, this group consisted of 5 – Kent ‘Bob’ Gabourel and Kenroy ‘ Smokes’ Gladden of Kulture Megabytes, Angel Tzib of Westrac Alliance, Richard Santiago of Benny’s Megabytes and Brandon Morgan of Digicell 4G. These 5 caught Chase Number 2 at mile 33. This new development now made up Chase Number 2 consisting of 9 cyclists.

At mile 25, Chase Number 1 was 1 minute and 20 seconds behind the leaders. Chase Number 2 was 5 minutes and 48 seconds behind the leaders and 4 minutes and 28 seconds behind Chase Number 1. However, in Chase Number 2, the “dead weight” was really holding back the guys from closing the gap. Remembering that Smart Team, Quiroz and Cattouse, were the only team not having anyone in the front, which made it clear that they had to work harder than the others to try and close the gap. When Tzib and Gabourel started allowing gaps to form in the pace line, Quiroz and Cattouse starting attacking them from the back and leaving them behind. Both Tzib and Gabourel got dropped and in the process Brown was also dropped. Chase Number 2 now went from 9 to 5.

During the chase from Chase Number 1, Quinton Hamilton, being the more experienced in the group, talked a lot and organized the guys as best he could. While this group worked hard to bring back the leading 2, whether it was the distance or speed, Erwin Middleton was dropped, bringing Chase Number 1 down to now 8. At mile 20, Chase Number 1 caught the leading 2 and at this point, the guys from Imani’s got on the front and turned up the pace.

By mile 10, Chase Number 1 now consisting of Quiroz, Cattouse, Lovell, Santiago and Gladden (Morgan was dropped at mile 14) brought down the time gap to 58 seconds. When the news of the time gap got to the leaders, Jesmar Guerra gave his all and eventually peeled off from the front. Giovanni Choto was also doing a lot of the pacing.

These 7 guys came all the way into the City. As the sprint started, the favourite was obviously Nissan Arana who is known to be a very fast guy. However, it was between the youngster, Tarique Flowers and the veteran, Quinton Hamilton, at the tape. Tarique showed no fear as he tried relentlessly to be the first to cross the line, which he did! Quinton Hamilton settled for 2nd place, Keion Robateau 3rd, Joslyn Chavarria 4th and Jose Choto rounded out the top 5. Nissan Arana and Giovanni Choto were 6th and 7th respectively.

Chase Number 1 came in and Richard Santiago was the only one who sprinted for the 8th position. Jesmar Guerra 9th, Kenroy Gladden 10th, Oscar Quiroz 11th, Giovanni Lovell 12th and Brandon Cattouse 13th.

Only 25 cyclists finished the race.

About Isaac Rhys

Isaac Rhys is the Managing Editor at cyclebiz.com. Based in the Belize, he started Cyclebiz in 2015 intent on attracting more attention to local bike races and its participants.

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