Gavi Epstein Just Getting Warmed Up

Gavi, a member of CRCA and the Sakonnet U23 Team, was recently invited to race internationally with ‘Santinos’, a local team from Belize competing in The Tour of Belize, a UCI pro race (2.2) Feb 13th thru the 17th. It spanned 5 days with 6 stages and 800k/500miles of racing. By the looks of it, Gavi didn’t waste much time …

Stage 1: 210km Stage from Belize City to Corozal-Mexican Border to Orange Walk

I broke away 30 km into the stage. My teammate Javier Linder bridged up to us about 20 km later and we just kept going. Our lead was up to almost 9 minutes and then at about 120 km into the race a big group of 13 or so bridged up to us. Our gap was now at like 12 or 13 minutes. 3 more of my team mates were in the group. Lisandro, Mauricio and Luciano. Soon after attacks started going off everywhere and Luciano got away with a rider from Tecos. They ended up staying away and the Tecos rider won with Luciano right behind and getting the best U23. The next group that got away had two more of my team mates. I was almost with them but then the team director told me to stop as the other riders were starting to chase me and we already had 3 up the road. I ended up coming in 15th but they scored me at 18th 6 minutes behind the winner but still 4 min in front of the field. First day of racing and I am in a break for 180km.

Stage 2 Thurs AM 105km Orange Walk to Belize City:

Today’s stage ended with 3 guys off the front just 30 seconds and a field sprint. My cassette was loose so I sat out the sprint.

Stage 3 Thurs PM 40km TTT:

We were 4th. Team USA won.

Stage 4 140 km Belize City to Benque Viejo:

The race was controlled by Team Tecos. The USA national team tried to split the race apart in the crosswinds 50 km in and got rid of a lot of dead weight. Two riders ended up getting away and got a big gap after Team USA slowed down. 110 km into the race, there was an extremely steep yet short hill about 300 or 400 meters long. I was in horrible position but managed to make my way close to the front. At the top I went with a strong attack. 5 of us ended up getting away. I just started drilling it as I wanted to make up time on GC. We caught one of the 2 guys in the original break and then 3 guys crashed leaving me and one other guy and the guy we caught sitting on. We kept on going and I won the sprint for 2nd making up 1 min and 15 seconds on the field. I moved up to 13th for the overall GC.

Stage 5 185 km Benque Viejo to Guatemalan Border to Dangriga to Gap:

My teammate Lisandro broke away with the King of the Mountains leader on the first KOM and they managed to stayed away to Dangriga with 50km to go. It all stayed together until the final climb of about 2 km. There were only about 35 or 40 riders left in the field by the finishing climb as there were a lot of hills. Lisandro won the stage at the top of a nasty climb. My other teammate, Luciano got 3rd holding onto his 2nd overall and best U23 rider. I ended up in 8th. I should have been 4th though as I was feeling great and there was a rider leading me during the false flat part of the stage and all of a sudden he swerved left and I clipped the 200 meter to go sign almost crashing but was able to hold on for 8th. I am in 11th overall after today.

Stage 6 140 km Guatemalan Border to Belize City:

Today was a very controlled stage. We tried to get Lisandro the KOM jersey as he was behind by 1 point. But the only KOM of the day was hardly a real climb. I tried to light it up with 1 km to go before the KOM but he couldn’t match the guy with the KOM jersey as he is a much smaller pure climber. Then when we hit the flats the crosswind was horrible. Team USA drilled it at the front and split up the field again. Only about 30 riders left. In the end I didn’t end up sprinting. We had finishing laps and I wasn’t sure how many laps to go so I just tried to ride at the front of the group. I ended up in top 15 or so but moving me up to 9th overall on GC. Two of the top 10 guys didn’t make the split during the crosswinds so I was able to advance.

My team, Santinos ended up being the number one team on Team GC. We had a riders 2nd, 4th and 9th (me) overall. Got the red (best U23) jersey and number one team. I personally got some UCI points from stage 4th getting 2nd and finished with 9th overall. Not bad for my first race of the season!

A special thanks goes out Santinos for the opportunity and to the race, for the pictures.