Choto : A National Hero!!! Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 12 April 2012 00:00

After watching foreigners come into Belize and dominate the biggest cycling event of the country for six straight years, support for cycling became extremely fragile. Long time sponsors became reluctant to make contributions to the event. Emil Moreno, President of the Belize Cycling Association, gave an interview on March 26 explaining how difficult it has been over the last few years to attract sponsors. In fact, as of March 26, the association still had not secured prizes for the first twenty finishers of this year’s race. Thats why, for the survival of cycling in Belize, it was imperative that a Belizean pedaled his bike across the finish line of the 84th Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic first.

Team owners knew the state of the sport very well. Some cut down on the number of foreigners they normally bring in and some did not bring any at all. Those who did contract foreign riders gave clear instructions that they were riding for the Belizeans on the team. Even the sponsors fixed their contributions to prompt team owners to push for a Belizean winner. If a foreigner won the race, he would receive $5,000 but if a Belizean won the race he would receive $15,000. Thousands of dollars and the fate of the sport was riding on the bikes of Belizean cyclists. However, all the incentives in the world could have been provided but on race day the victory belongs to who wants it most.

The race started in front of Leslie’s Imports at 6 a.m. with 80 elite riders; 7 foreigners and 73 Belizeans. A year-long preparation had come down to a few hours. Best practice in the race is to stay with the main peloton and conserve one’s energy until an attack is warranted. However, Giovanni Choto of Western Spirits and a couple others decided to stay away from conventional wisdom and went on an early attack. Just 8 miles after the race started Giovanni Choto, Allen Castillo and Sherman Thomas had separated themselves from the pack. The peloton was not bothered at this early stage. The most such early attacks usually yield are a few station prizes. The attack was soon registered as a true threat when Choto and Castillo opened the gap into San Ignacio. On the way back, Castillo submitted as he was no longer able to keep up with Choto’s pace. That left Choto on a solo flight. He may not have done it intentionally but Choto made the race much shorter by focusing on one station prize at a time. He rode, assuming that he would be caught eventually, but until then the station prizes would be his. The main peloton had its own struggles. Only a few riders were willing to work to bridge the gap. There were multiple reasons for this. When the foreigners started the chase, there was no support as most were complacent because it was a Belizean leading the race. Others chose not to work in the chase because they were holding out for a blitz at the end. It was when Choto reached the city alone and received a hero’s welcome that he realized he may be able to pull off a wire to wire victory. The race now had two story lines. On one hand, there was the galvanized Choto riding to victory unbothered and on the other hand, was a disorganized peloton seemingly unwilling to mount a challenge. Those resulted in an easy win for Giovanni Choto.

Choto finished the race two minutes and twelve seconds before the next finisher. His final time was six hours sixteen minutes and forty-five seconds. He rode bravely and lifted the spirit of an entire nation. Veteran cyclists describe Choto and his brothers as old school riders because they pound the road day in and day out. Choto’s ride is being regarded as an instant classic.

Four other Belizeans completed the top five. Brandon Cattouse finished second, Darnell Barrow finished third, Byron Pope finished fourth and Gregory Lovell finished 5th. In 2011, Luis Alberto Santizo, finished in a time of six hours eight minutes and ten seconds.


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