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Mar 28, 2002

Cyclists ready for annual Cross Country

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They are a fraternity of superb athletes who compete throughout the year in a series of punishing races, leading up to the granddaddy of them all. Ann-Marie reports on the upcoming Cross Country Classic.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting

The 74th Annual Cross Country Cycling Classic rides out of Belize City at 6:00 on Holy Saturday morning. Some ninety senior cyclists are expected to endure the one hundred and forty mile course to San Ignacio and back with two laps around the Marion Jones Sporting Complex to complete the cycling tradition.

Earlier this week at 5:15 in the morning, we caught up with one team, which is always a force to reckon with. The Santino’s Jamis Team has won two cross country championships. Ernest “Jawmaine” Meighan won his first in 1998, and come back four years later for a second win.

Santino Castillo, Owner, Santino’s Jamis

“On Saturday I have a lot of expectations obviously from Ernest Meighan, Mateo Cruz, Ariel Rosado, Barney Brown and from “Dangalang” better known as “Dangalang”, but his name is Ernest Thurton, who has stepped up a lot recently. And these are the guys the Mexicans will be riding for. In my competition, clearly the Smiling Team poses a very big threat with both Andrew Smiling and with Quinton Hamilton. And of course you have the other threats that are always out there such as Francisco Flores, always a threat, Shane Vasquez, and some of the good names like Michael Lewis et cetera.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Third cross country win?”

Ernest “Jawmaine” Meighan, Reigning Champion

“Well I’m not going out there to lose. I going to try win at least the third one, and with my team around, my solid team, I think I can do it again.”

And he’s not the only one who thinks he can do it. Mateo Cruz, who placed seventh last year, says a Cuban coach he’s been working with has given him lessons worthy of a top five finish.

Mateo Cruz, Jamis Team

“I’m seventy-five percent there, by Saturday I’ll se a hundred percent. There’s a lot of foreigners coming in and that’s the kind of thing that you try to concentrate on, the foreigners, because if you try to focus on the Belizeans you won’t get there. Why I say that is because in 1999, when I broke the record to Cayo, I focussed on the Cubans. That was the first time the Cubans came and I focussed on them and I was right up there until I got punctured at JB’s.”

Young Herman Requena, who rode under the Sunflower banner last year but didn’t finish the race, has made a new start with a new team.

Herman Requena, Jamis Team

“The Cuban coach for Santino’s put me in a very good condition this year, and I trained very hard this year with them. So I think this year I’ll be doing very good. I hope it’s not windy because once it’s windy it’s very hard because they could roadside it, and I can’t handle the roadside maps, so I hope it’s not windy.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Trained very good for Mt. Hope?”

Herman Requena

“Well I’m a climber. I’m too light, so I could climb over hills.”

Ariel Rosado makes his debut as a senior cyclist this year. Although he didn’t finish in 2001, he’s had an excellent track record as a junior cyclist and is hoping to parlay those same skills that made him a cycling prodigy in his early years.

Ann-Marie Williams

“What is your strength on the road, are you a good sprinter, climber? Where do you fit in?”

Ariel Rosado, Jamis Team

“The thing that has helped me the best is that I’m an all around cyclist. I can do everything, which is very good, that is why I’m always a consistent rider. But if I had a speciality, it would have to be hills riding, I’m the best in hills riding.”

Besides the hills, Rosado faces other mountainous challenges, such as putting the team first.

Ariel Rosado

“At times it’s rough because you have to sacrifice yourself, you have to work for others at times. But at other times it pays off, they work for you, you get the victory at times, so it can be rough at times. But like they keep on reminding me on this team, I’m still young, so for now I can sacrifice myself for men like Jawmaine or the seniors and then in two years time it’ll be my turn when the team starts to work me and I can start to be the victor of the races, so it’s worth it.”

Jamis owner and sponsor, Santino Castillo, who’s usually big on bringing Americans, is for the first time bringing Mexicans, six of them to complement his twelve-man Belizean cycling team.

Santino Castillo

“The Americans are very good, they’ve been coming to Belize for years, but basically they’re also sprinters, which means that they will end up in the track with the possibility of winning the race. The Mexicans are more work men for the Belize team, and it gives us a better opportunity for a Belizean to win the race.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“They you more loyalty to the team you think?”

Santino Castillo

“Absolutely, definitely more loyalty. The Mexicans are like they say in Spanish, del corazon. And they have told me, Mr. Santino you’ve brought us here for a job and we will do whatever it takes to bring whoever you designate to the track on Saturday.”

And to ensure a safe Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic, president Perry Gibson says the association has tightened up on the rules.

Perry Gibson, President, Belize Cycling Assoc.

“Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been working with the press, the police, the cyclist and the service people to get the race as organised as possible. And I think at this point we’ve come a long way because now we operate the race; the race is not run by the police. The police are at the front and at the back and we co-ordinate in between. And so with regards to safety, I think we very much have it close enough to perfect at this point.”

Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

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