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The Foreigners Are Coming: What It Means for Local Racing

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The foreigners are coming!  The foreigners are coming! Hide the women and children!  Batten down the hatches!  The foreigners are coming!  That may be the sentiment in some circles now that the year 2016 is imminently upon us; the year in which local riders will no longer team up with foreigners, but will have to race against them, and the quota of foreign cyclists in our Classics can be as high as 20% of the field.

Local cycling fans – and maybe a few racers too –  are wondering how the new rules will affect our boys going forward, and of course the biggest concern is that we may be staring at a new streak of losing the Cross Country Classic. The reality is that the change in policy was long in coming. It should actually be an advantage to Belizean cyclists and sponsors, racing at home, even if they don’t know it yet.  First off the bat will be the public image of the Belizean teams and team owners.  Even while they have been ecstatic in past victories, the public haven’t shared in their joy when those victories have been by Mexican, Guatemalan, or American crossing the line first.  Holler all they want that it’s a team sport, and the local team won…that argument never seemed to make any sense to a frustrated fan cheering for a Belizean win. Also, it should be noted that almost all, if not all, the foreign nationals who have been victorious in our biggest races were brought here by local teams.

In fact, the argument could be made more often than not that those local teams actually did their Belizean riders a disservice by including foreigners on the team.  From a mental standpoint I’ve always felt that cyclists who had imported helpers were less likely to ride an aggressive race, or at least aggressive enough to win.  Instead they were comforted by the fact that “so-and-so foreign rider” was brought in to help me win.  Then they would go out and lay an egg in the race, and subsequently blame said foreign rider who didn’t do his job.  The idea that a foreigner would deliver his Belizean teammate to the line for a Cross Country win was always a pipe dream and has never played out.  Apart from that lackadaisical attitude, Belizeans time and again were beaten to the break-away by their own foreign teammate, and then relegated for the rest of the day to sit back and block, because after all it was now their teammate up the road on the way to victory.  How many times have our best riders been in that position over the years? Too many is the answer!  With the new rules in place, no Belizean will ever have that excuse/reason to not chase down a break-away again.  Instead of sitting back, they will have every incentive to chase down any foreign attacker.  That’s the way it should be, and win or lose our boys will now fight to the bitter end.

As for the possible increase in foreign teams that may be invited and register for our classics, that may turn out to be a good thing too.  More teams mean more chasers, and we know fully well that the Belizean teams don’t like to take up chase.  Having a team from the Caribbean along with one from Central America, to join in the race with a Mexican and American team should result in them neutralizing each other to some extent.  Breakaways that may occur during the course of a race are bound to go off the front with at least one or two of those foreign teams missing out, thus forcing them to assist the Belizean teams to chase.  It will make for more competitive races, and eventually will accomplish what we always talk about – raising the level of the Belizean cyclists.  Even if we go on a (short?) losing streak with the new rules in place, if the end result is better competition and raising of the level of our local cyclists, then the experiment will be considered “Mission Accomplished”.  I for one am a believer.

 

Ed Note: Alan Auil is a recent contributor to viewpoint on cyclebiz.com.

About Alan Auil

Alan Auil is a contributor to viewpoint on cyclebiz.com. He is Belizean cycling aficionado with a wealth of experience on and off the bike; from riding and coaching to administrating and broadcasting.

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