|Cave Branch Outpost Wins 13th La Ruta Maya River Challenge|
|Written by Shane D. Williams|
|Thursday, 11 March 2010 00:00|
The La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge is now in its 13th year of existence and this year’s challenge was as big as ever. The 179 mile long race has become one of the main attractions of the Baron Bliss Day celebration’s list of events, and it has attracted competitors from all over the world. There were four stages in the La Ruta Maya Challenge. It started in San Ignacio with eighty-six teams, including thirteen foreign units and the first stage wascompleted in Banana Bank on Friday. On Saturday, stage two was from Banana Bank to Bermudian Landing. Sunday’s challenge ended at Burrel Boom and the finish line was in Belize City at the Belcan Bridge.
A huge crowd of spectators gathered at the foot of the Belcan Bridge to witness the completion of the race. The bridge itself was blocked off and designated as a relaxing area where Belizeans enjoyed ice-cold soft and not so soft drinks. The crowd roared as the first two teams rowed into vision. The Belize Bank team is the defending champs. They are the Lakers of the La Ruta Maya River Challenge, dominating the event in recent years. However, heading into the final leg of the race, it was the Cave Branch Team that had established a lead of one minute and twenty-seven seconds. The final stretch of the race was very entertaining. Cave Branch and Belize Bank approached the Belcan Bridge paddle for paddle. Fans began shouting in an attempt to encourage their team to “finish strong”. The final sprint saw Cave Branch pulling away to secure the victory and title of La Ruta Maya Champs.
Jerry Rhaburn of Cave Branch Outpost said that he has been participating in the challenge for 11 years. He had several top five finishes and says that he felt this was his year. The last stretch of the race was crucial. Rhaburn said, “Everybody wanted to win, and coming down to the end we didn’t ease up and they didn’t ease up, but we got the upper hand and we used that.” Last years champ, Daniel Cruz of Belize Bank, said, “We tried our best to sprint, but those guys are very fast and they beat us by like five seconds. We did all we could, but those guys are fast and they’re in shape just like us.” Team CPBL finished third. Chris Guydis said that better and longer training was the difference in a third and first place finish: “I saved a little for the sprint but those guys are stronger than me at the end of the race, so no excuses.”
An award ceremony was held after the completion of the challenge on the grounds of the Belize City Center. It was a very festive event as Belizeans gathered to participate in games and socialize with each other. The Cave Branch Team received the coveted Kinich Ahau Trophy along with several other prizes for winning the challenge and each of its stages. Peace Makers won the Female Category. Everyone who participated in the race could not have won prizes but, to them, completing the challenge was a rewarding experience. Jerry Rhaburn said, “The most important thing is to see the fans and hear the people on the banks cheering on for all their teams. It is like a big family going out there for the past four days and I just hope the race doesn’t die down.”