Posted by Editor on 11/16/07
Ramirez & Haywood Go Three for Three at La Ruta
Note: There are no photos today because internet connectivity is almost non-existent. They will be posted after tomorrow's stage.
Day three saw La Ruta hit its highest point, at 3010 metres above sea level on the slopes of the Irazu volcano. The mud quotient also decreased significantly from the first two stages, but it made no difference to the results - Federico Ramirez (BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS) and Sue Haywood (Trek-VW) took their third consecutive stage victories, and extended their already significant overall leads to the point that it will take a miracle for them to be displaced in the final day tomorrow.
Stage 3 started on the outskirts of San Jose and immediately began to climb. After rolling through crowded city streets (and on the sidewalk at one point to get around a traffic snarl up involving two buses, a transport truck and multiple scooters), the field stretched out quickly as the pavement tilted up.
Eight kilometres into the climb, riders entered a narrow green tunnel between three metre tall, moss covered dirt embankments topped by huge ferns and trees. The track had degenerated to a pair of slippery cement pads the width of a car footprint, and was as steep as 18% in places.
Coming out of the tunnel the riders hit a short flat section of grass and mud before a final 20% singletrack grunt to the first checkpoint. After a short downhill respite, it was a solid 20 kilometres of climbing to the top of the climb. While the savagely steep sections of stage two were absent, mist, rain and the cold sapped the strength of riders.
At the top, it was 15 kilometres of gradual descending, with the first few kilometres the roughest. The final 15 kilometres was straight descending, with the last five switchbacking through coffee plantations to finish in the town of Aquiares (literally 'Surrounded by Rivers').
Ramirez had commented after the previous stage that his team's plan was to 'control' the race and watch his rivals. That plan had obviously changed overnight, when he attacked hard six kilometres into the race and rode away from the rest of the top contenders.
"It was my strategy to attack. Last year I got flat tires and a minor injury on the downhill, so I wanted to go down more slowly at my own pace and be careful. It was something that my trainer and I discussed."
He very quickly opened a gap, with Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss-Bianchi) commenting wryly "In three minutes he had one minute on us. He is so strong, it was not possible to chase."
Ramirez rode steadily away to establish a gap approaching 10 minutes by the top of the climb. At the top, his mechanic quickly changed his wheels to ones with wider tires for the downhill, while Ramirez grabbed some food and put on a jacket for the descent.
His team mate Juan Alberto Solis came over the top next, followed by Deiber Esquivel (IBP Pensiones), Tinker Juarez (Cannondale), Paolo Montoya Macosta-Lee Cougan) and Dietsch all together. Esquivel descended with reckless abandon to overtake Solis and finish second, just under nine minutes behind Ramirez. Juarez finished fourth when Montoya flatted and Dietsch decided to take it more cautiously.
"We rode as a small group on the climb, but the downhill was very technical with many rocks. I decided to ride it very carefully." commented Dietsch.
Montoya took fifth, just ahead of Dietsch, and these two riders hung onto their second and third spots respectively in the overall standings, while Solis moved into fourth and Juarez is fifth.
Haywood added another 17 minutes and 41 seconds to her lead over second-placed Louise Kobin (Sho Air-Rock and Road), and is now over 43 minutes up on her rival with one stage remaining.
"Today was a Wow day, the terrain was amazing. Louise and I started together, but we split up when we hit the pavement. I didn't think I was getting much time on the climb, because I could always see her one switchback below. Today was the day I was looking for; I'm in stage race mode now. But I'm in awe of the climbing they have here - that is the test of La Ruta."
- A lot of riders missed a crucial turn early on the downhill and lost varying amounts of time - from a few minutes to, at the extreme end, elimination from the GC for Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain-Haywood).
"I descended for like 12 kilometres, and there was no way that I could climb all the way back up, so I got a ride in the back of the pickup of a local farmer, and then when I got to the last checkpoint got into the broom wagon. I was so cold; I swear that I saw snowflakes in the back of the pickup."
Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) came into the downhill in tenth place and by the time he got back on course (after a flat) he had dropped to 23rd. Manny Prado (Sho Air-La Ruta) went in eighth and lost some 25 minutes, dropping to 21st.
- Cory Wallace (Freewheel Jasper) was the top Canadian finisher, in 11th place, followed by Kris Sneddon (Kona) in 16th. Sneddon remains the top Canadian in the overall standings in 12th, followed by Wallace in 14th and Hestler in 19th. Canada's Sandy Mitchell (Gerick Cycle) has taken over the top spot in the Vet category from Tony Routley (Team Whistler).
- Samantha Philips (formerly Nicholson), a former top Canadian cyclo-crosser, was leading the women's race in stage one when she crashed heavily. She continued on to the second checkpoint, with an extremely painful shoulder. When she had it checked out by first aid, it turned out that she had covered some of the toughest riding of the stage with a compound fracture of the collarbone. She went to hospital and had surgery, with a plate installed.
"It was a stupid little crash; I was looking at my line ahead when my wheel went into a little waterbar and twisted the bars, and sent me over."
She is back at the race today, providing support for a friend.
- Race founder Roman Urbina was driving the lead moto on Day 2 when he misjudged a corner on the first descent and crashed, breaking his knee. He was back at the race this morning, on crutches.
1 Federico Ramirez Mendez (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS 3:34:25
2 Deiber Esquivel Benavides (CRC) IBP Pensiones at 8:57
3 Juan Alberto Solis Rodas (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS 10:29
4 David "Tinker" Juarez (USA) Cannondale 13:10
5 Paolo Montoya Cantillo (CRC) Macosta Lee Cougan Santa Ana BCT 15:01
6 Thomas Dietsch (FRA) Gewiss Bianchi 17:00
7 Jonathan Carballo Ramirez (CRC) IBP Pensiones 24:20
8 Sandro Spaeth (SUI) Ride Magazine - Texner BMC 35:56
9 Pereira Gonzalo Bonilla (CRC) Ciclo ParaÃ¢â‚¬Å¡so 36:10
10 Thomas Zahnd (SUI) Team Stoeckli-Craft 37:37
11 Cory Wallace (CAN) Team Jasper 37:54
15 Brandon Dwight (USA) Boulder Cycle Sport 45:50
16 Kris Sneddon (CAN) Kona 47:29
17 Chucky Gibson (USA) Tahitian Noni International 51:25
19 Rom Kanga Akerson (USA) Rock Shox - Sram 52:34
20 Jason First (USA) Crank Brothers 53:46
23 Andreas Hestler (CAN) Rocky Mountain / Haywood Securities 1:02:39
28 Fred Dreier (USA) VeloNews 1:10:09
1 Federico Ramirez Mendez (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS 12:37:00
2 Paolo Montoya Cantillo (CRC) Macosta Lee Cougan Santa Ana BCT at 27:08
3 Thomas Dietsch (FRA) Gewiss Bianchi 44:43
12 Kris Sneddon (CAN) Kona 2:00:30
14 Cory Wallace (CAN) Team Jasper 2:33:38
19 Andreas Hestler (CAN) Rocky Mountain - Haywood 3:18:41
1 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek - VW 4:42:45
2 Louise Kobin (USA) Sho Air-Rock and Road 17:41
1 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek - VW 16:43:49
2 Louise Kobin (USA) Sho Air-Rock and Road at 43:21
1 Matt Gordon (USA) Orbea 4:12:38
1 Matt Luhn (USA) 4:39:44
2 Mike Charuk (CAN) at 4:06
1 Mike Charuk (CAN) 16:35:32
1 Sandy Mitchell (CAN) 5:09:04
1 Sandy Mitchell (CAN) 17:12:29
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