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Dec 30, 2003

Cyclists prepare for New Year’s race

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While many of Belize’s ardent cycling fans will watch the action without the benefit of a night’s sleep, the riders will have to do their celebrating after the race. News 5′s Patrick Jones reports on the first big event of 2004.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

Over ninety cyclists will take to the Northern Highway on January first in search of the gold in the KREM New Year’s Cycling Classic. Defending Champion Douglas “Barcelona” Lamb is attempting to do what no one has ever done in the fourteen year history of the race: win the title three times.

Douglas Lamb, Defending Champion

“The KREM Cycling Classic has become the next cross country. So everybody wants their name to be mentioned in that book or the newspaper coming on to the next year. The first and second place persons are going to always be recognised, but the third, fourth and fifth have no recognition. So everybody wants to have their name in that book. I am lucky to have two of them right now.”

With all eyes focussed on him, etching his name into the history book will be no easy task for Lamb. Two of the challengers are Ian Smith of Team C-Ray, and the man who can also claim a record, Derek Mahler.

Derek Mahler, 1993 Champion

“Douglas Lamb is a very good rider, but he win it two years and also Francisco Flores win it two times. They are the only two Belizeans that win it two times. In a way its good for them to say that Douglas Lamb had the record because ’93 I win this race and hold the record for nine years and no one has been talking about my record. And then the race has been cut shorter. Anyway, so they say they have the record, I give them the record. But on my behalf, my one is a longer race and better time, so how the could shorten the race and complete it with my time.”

Ian Smith, Team C-Ray

“Douglas Lamb has won the race twice so he knows how to ride, he knows how to dose his efforts over that three and a half hour period. Whether or nor a team or a group of riders will be watching him, I don’t know. Probably the foreigners because normally they are not really versed with what’s happening on the local scene, and so normally when they line up who is the defending champion everybody will be pointing to Douglas Lamb. So you will have Mexicans, Guatemalans, and what’s not, okay, that’s the guy that won last year he is probably in shape to defend this year. “

Santino Castillo Jr., Coach, Team SanCas

“The team has proven itself consistently throughout 2003. We have won every single classic except cross-country. And we’re going in with the exact same team that I’ve had all year except with the added strength of the two juniors, Keith Enright and Geovanny Leslie who are now going to be seniors. Keith Enright being the junior cyclist of the year and the addition of Jeffery Zelaya, which will clearly make us the team to beat for the KREM Classic.”

Castillo says going into the race, he will be relying on all his twenty-five years of experience in cycling to ensure a victory for his team.

Santino Castillo Jr.

“But what makes the team even stronger is that everyone recognises their role. Everyone knows that only one man can win the race and they have trained and they know each other. They sleep together, train together, eat together, and I believe that is a big edge we are taking into this race.”

And that always-touchy subject of foreign riders taking part in local races will not be an issue this time around. President of the Belize Cycling Association Gerald Garbutt says the riders themselves got together and solved the problem.

Gerald Garbutt, President, B.C.A.

“It’s all in the hands of the cycling association. The Belize Cycling Association, they do all invitations, be it teams, be it individuals. We sent out invitation to teams, we send out invitation to individual riders who are close to us. We call them, the last five years or so who have been coming to Belize riding, be it Mexicans, be it Guatemalans, be it Americans, whosoever.”

Which makes the international riders an even more formidable force to reckon with on the road.

Douglas Lamb

“They even have a better shot now than before because they come in unattached. They are not working for any team in Belize where they have to do a lot of pacing and stuff. They can play the ball game just like how we normally play the ball game, so anybody could win.”

Smith says the leg of the race, roughly thirty miles coming into Belize City, will make or break the race for the riders.

Ian Smith

“From prior experiences, I believe our team will just try to control the race from early if we have to control the race because that KREM classic normally rides in the last thirty miles. So pretty much our strategy, go in see how the race is riding, see who are the strong riders, and then from there try to adjust. We have our game plan and if it goes our way, the way we have set out, then perfect, it falls into our hands. But then if it’s not going accordingly, then we will adjust, have to concentrate, think, then go on to plan B and see how it goes. But pretty much be strong for the last thirty to twenty miles of the race.”

Patrick Jones, for News 5.

President of the Belize Cycling Association Gerald Garbutt says from start to finish, the New Year’s Day race will be under strict supervision and anyone caught drinking in service vehicles will be ejected. The race starts at nine o’clock on New Year’s Day in Corozal Town. While the senior and junior male and masters will start in Corozal, the women will start their run for the roses in Orange Walk. A field of ten female cyclists are expected to compete.

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