For the first time ever, a Belizean residing in the United States has claimed Belize’s most prestigious sporting title – winner of the 87th Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic. He is Justin Williams, older son of veteran rider Calman Williams, and after dominating the race almost from its start along with brother Cory, he claimed the garland of roses just after midday Saturday, 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 says he owes it all to his younger brother and his pride in his “Belizean-ness”.
” Man I have so much pride right now, I’m so happy. There was a couple times in the race where I was hurting and I just kept thinking, ‘I gotta do it for the Country, I gotta do it for the Country.’ And I just rode on pride today man, I’m proud to be a Belizean.”
”How did it feel?”
“I had to control myself. I had to control my emotion, my heart rate went up and I can’t even explain it I can’t even think but you’re just like so excited, so so, excited. I had to keep myself calm coming through the city and composed and make sure that I brought it home for the Country.
My little brother took it all the way from the bridge and he just roll tempo, roll tempo, roll tempo and then Scottie Weiss attacked with maybe 300m to go, and I think he knows I’m a little bit quicker than him so he wanted to try and jump me. He jumped me and then he saw I got on, but instead of waiting for everybody else to catch on he just put his head down and went. When I felt him fading, I just went around him and saw the line, and I didn’t look back.”
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 to stay focused with the finish line in sight. 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.
”When we came down, the younger Williams start to throw his attack at Scottie Weiss and as we reach inna the headwind round by John’s .Scottie Weiss start show himself da front and when we reach halfway up by BTL, Scottie Weiss decide fu throw wah real hard attack and that’s’ what hurt me. I couldn’t get under his wheel, I tried my best to get under but I couldn’t get under.”
“Are you proud of your performance today?”
”Yes, well I’m proud of my performance because this da the best I do inna Cross Country and I really mi di try my best to get the win but I’m still really happy a Belizean got the win.”
“You were optimistic coming into this race. You seemed to have slipped a bit after early success in 2014, but lately you have not really been, and your team has not been very dominant. Where you optimistic coming into this race?”
“Yeah actually I came in with the confidence that I coulda mi win. Our team is a new team, we just start off last year so we still di try get stuff together. It’s a good team, good sponsor and we believe that we coulda win. We try we best and end up with third.”
The runner-up, a former KREM Classic champion and fixture on the local scene, is equally proud of his achievement.
“We all worked very well together going after Station prizes, I had a great day I felt great on the bike. This race inspires me, I really wanted to win it, second place is great so I’m very happy. “
” Talk to us about the sprint at the end. How was it for you?”
“Well I’m not a sprinter so my strategy was to try and jump a little early because I knew Justin would beat me in a sprint so I jumped early and tried to hold it all the way to the line but he came around me and he won. I’m happy for him, I’m happy for Belize and also for my team and myself. I know Justin, and I’m super happy and proud of him so it couldn’t be any better.”
“Will you be returning?”
” Oh for sure, I love Belize so I’ll be back.”
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 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. According to the classification released by the Federation on its Facebook page, 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.//