Posted by Editor on 11/3/06
La Ruta - Day 1
Photos to follow and results (when available).
Last year, Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower) called the first stage of La Ruta de los Conquistadores the hardest single day of racing he had ever done after winning the stage. This year, Frischknecht could managed no better than 12th in a vastly improved field, and said "this was crazier than last year!" Adam Craig (Giant), who finished fourth, commented "this is the burliest ride I've ever done."
Colombian Hector Leonardo Paez (Full Dynamix), the pre-race favourite, did not disappoint with an impressive six hour ride over 97 kilometres, through rain forest and up a total of 4420 metres of climbing (14,401 feet). The Marathon World Cup and Pan Am champion has taken a commanding lead, finishing nearly 15 minutes in front of Jeremiah Bishop (Trek-VW). Costa Rica's Andrei Amador (BCR Pizza Hut) preserved local pride with third, almost seven minutes behind Bishop. Canadian Marg Fedyna took top honours in the women's field, and Jon Nutbrown (Ridley's-Devinci) was the top Canadian man in 17th place.
The first leg of this three stage race across Costa Rica was over 20% shorter than last year, however, it was considerably more difficult, with the main climb gravel and mud, instead of last year's pavement. "On that two hour climb I was walking for at least an hour" commented Frischknecht.
The race headed north from Jaco, on the Pacific coast for a few kilometres before turning inland, and straight up. Mountain bike legend Tom Ritchey took a flyer of the front after the start, and was chased down by none other than his former sponsored rider, Frischknecht, with a big grin on his face. However, once the trail went up, the Swiss rider knew that he was in trouble: "I was having trouble with the weather, I was not used to it because I came down only 30 hours before the start. You need at least three to four days to acclimatize."
It didn't help that Frischknecht went off course in the final 15 kilometres, doing an extra, and unnecessary, three kilometres of climbing before realizing his mistake and heading back down to the course.
Paez and Amador set the early pace, despite the Colombian saying pre-race that his strategy would be to hold back until the climb. "I felt very good, really strong, and I had an opportunity at the front, so I took it."
Craig and three-time Ruta champion Frederico Ramirez (BCR Pizza Hut), came close to matching the lead duo's pace, only a minute behind by the third checkpoint, but paid for it on the climb. Bishop started slower and moved up steadily.
"I didn't feel that good at the start, so I just concentrated on eating and drinking." explained Bishop. "I didn't push it; I just let the race come to me. I was riding with Adam, but one of the rings in my cassette broke into pieces and I lost a gear. I had to slow down because I was afraid I was going to break my chain."
"I thought to myself 'this is going to be hard', so I didn't push a high pace. Those guys (Amador, Craig and Ramirez) fell like dominoes on the climb, and I was just stopping at streams to dunk my head, and then I had a shower under the waterfall on the climb. It was only when I knew that I could finish that I sped up."
Craig had been dropped by Ramirez on the main climb. "Those steep climbs broke me ... you were climbing for two hours, and I was cramping - my feet hurt so much at the end. During the first three hours, I was thinking 'this is pretty cool', but then I started doing the math, and realized I wasn't halfway yet. It was only on the final climb that I was able to big ring it and bridge up (to Ramirez). After I caught him I made the most feeble attack in the universe, but it worked."
Paez was struggling with his own problems - his rear derailleur stopped working on the main climb, while he was 20 minutes in front of Bishop. "I was panicking a little bit, yes. I thought they were just behind me, so I was working twice as hard when I was walking to stay ahead."
"When my gears could not shift it was on the steepest part, so I decided that it would best to walk that section to the next checkpoint, where I could work on my bike. I was able with some lube and adjustments to get it working again. After that I was feeling much more confident that I could win, especially when I heard about how big the gap was."
- Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) was the second Canadian finisher, in 26th place. Hestler came in some two hours after Paez, and admitted he was shattered. "Holy shit, what were these guys thinking? I'm two hours back, they are going to lose most of the field out there. I kind of exploded after the second check point, but it came back in stages until the final climb - I was just demo'd (demolished) there, absolutely hating life, saying I was never going to ride my bike again. It was total physical exhaustion and heat stroke like I've never had before."
- Marg Fedyna has taken the lead in the women's competition and said: "This is a real adventure race! I've been racing these events all year, so I was really ready for this one. It's an awesome event and everyone's been so helpful." Fedyna said that the water in some crossings was flowing so fast she had to hang onto some of the men to avoid getting swept away.
- Tinker Juarez (Cannondale) finished sixth, and knows a thing or two about endurance racing, however, he said immediately after finishing "I need to sit down somewhere for awhile..." After he had recovered a bit, he commented: "it was really, really hard ... too hard. I totally agree that this is the hardest race. There is absolutely nowhere to pedal on the flat; my neck is sore from looking up the climb all the time."
- Day two offers some respite at 66.7 kilometres (shorter than last year, with the first paved section through San Jose city traffic moved out of town). The riders climb a 'mere' 2654m (8787 feet), with 30% paved, 11% mud and 59% gravel roads. The stage ends with a long, gnarly descent into a coffee plantation - Frischknecht lost his lead on day two when he suffered multiple punctures on this section. Bishop isn't making any predictions, but "anything can happen." Craig also sees an opportunity to move into third with a good descent, since he is only 3:32 back of Amador.
Preliminary Day 1 Results
1 Hector Paez (Colombia) Full Dynamix 6:00:25
2 Jeremiah Bishop (USA) Trek-VW at 14:48
3 Amdrei Amador (Costa Rica) BCR-Pizza Hut 21:30
4 Adam Craig (USA) Giant USA 25:02
5 Federico Ramirez (Costa Rica) BCR-Pizza Hut 26:29
6 Tinker Juarez (USA) Cannondale 32:54
7 Marvin Campos (Costa Rica) IBP 33:34
8 Paolo Montoya (Costa Rica) Super Pro 40:42
9 Eddy Perez (Costa Rica) Dos Pinos 50:09
10 Deiver Esquivel (Costa Rica) IBP 56:42
11 Marlon Ramirez (Costa Rica) Bike Station 57:24
12 Thomas Frischknecht (Switzerland) Swisspower-Scott 59:47
13 Marzio Deho (Italy) Olympia 1:06:31
17 Jon Nutbrown (Can) Ridley's-Devinci 1:25:20
26 Andreas Hestler (Can) Rocky Mountain-Business Objects 1:58:28
1. Marg Fedyna (Can) bungalowboys.com 8:14:48
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