John outsprints Leal to win Digicel cycling
By Avenash Ramzan
In searing heat on Sunday, 19-year-old Jamal John of Team Coco’s proved that he is a force to reckon with, outsprinting Team Gillette Evolution’s Raul Leal to win the feature 30-lap race of the annual Digicel Cancer Awareness cycling meet.
Contested around the outer circuit of the National Park, the 70-mile event attracted 51 starters, but from as early as the opening lap, it boiled down to two riders- John and Leal- who opened up a sizeable lead after a breakaway, maintained their advantage, and more importantly never relinquished it.
Such with their command of the course that they even lapped a few riders on lap 17, by which time they had opened a time gap of three minutes, 41 seconds on the chasing pack.
Questions about whether the duo would be able to maintain their remarkable lead subsided with each passing lap thereafter, as conversations began on who was the better finisher amongst the two.
The fact that they kept on each other’s back wheel throughout the race increased the excitement among patrons, who lined both sides of the roadway in front of the Guyana Defence Force headquarters on Vlissengen Road, where the finish line was drawn.
When race official Joseph Britton sounded the bell to signal the final lap, the riders were side-by-side and they kept it that way until the final 150 metres when John rose off his saddle and initiated the sprint.
That move triggered Leal to respond almost instantaneously, but the split second between the two in initiating the sprint proved decisive in the end. When John touched the line in two hours, 54 minutes, 11.72 seconds (2h: 54m: 11.72s), Leal was mere inches behind, as champion and runner-up were confirmed.
John received the Digicel’s champion jersey, a huge trophy and $250,000 for the win, while Leal collected a trophy and $200,000.
Last year’s champion Raynauth Jeffrey (Team Coco’s) brought a distant third, following a sprint finish with the chasing pack. Orville Hinds of Team Gillette Evolution and Christopher Griffith of Team Alanis finished fourth and fifth respectively.
In the Junior category, the ever-improving 18-year-old Raphael Leung copped the $80,000 first prize, leaving Jornel Yearwood and Christopher Cornelius to settle for second and third respectively.
Junior Niles, Warren McKay and Jaikarran Sookhai were 1-2-3 in the Veterans Under-45 race, while the top three finishers in the Over-45 race were Raymond Newton, Ian Jackson and Kennard Lovell in that order.
Linden’s Hazina Barrett, racing for the first time since last year’s Digicel race, copped the female category, while Keon Thomas got the better of Ozia McUally and Sean Budhan in the Mountain Bike race.
In the Novice race, Oliver Young, Joslyn Khan Greaves and Sherlane Sue Hang finished 1-2-3, while in the Digicel’s staff event, Dennis Christiani emerged champion, with Kareem Baird second and Travis Ferriera third.
Previously, the day’s activity was geared to promote awareness on breast cancer, but this year Digicel expanded its focus to all forms of cancer. As part of efforts to assist in the fight against the disease, the company presented a cheque to the tune of $500,000 to the Cancer Institute of Guyana.
On hand to receive the generous donation from Digicel’s Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Kelly, and Head of Marketing, Jacqueline James, was Outreach Director of the Cancer Institute of Guyana, Dr Syed Ghazi.
Dr Ghazi lauded the telecommunication company for helping to raise awareness on cancer, noting that the Cancer Institute has been carrying out its mandate in ensuring persons are screened and receive the necessary follow-up treatment.
Kelly told the gathering that the Digicel is grateful to all the persons who played a part in making the day’s activity a huge success. He also congratulated all the cyclists for riding for a worthy cause.
Over 100 riders participated in the activity, making it one of the largest cycling events in recent times. Apart from the huge trophies and cash incentives on offer, Digicel also treated spectators to several giveaways, while a fun zone was specially set up for the young ones to exert some energy.
Cover photo caption: Team Coco’s Jamal John touches the line, inches ahead of Team Gillette Evolution’s Raul Leal on Sunday (Photos: Avenash Ramzan)