Posted by Editor on 11/14/07
Costa Ricans Take Charge at La Ruta
After two years of watching foreigners walk away with wins at La Ruta - Costa Rica's most important race - the 'Ticos' took control on the first stage of the 2007 race today. Federico 'Lico' Ramirez (BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS), the only 3-time winner of La Ruta, took control of the race in the section through Carara National Park to win the 95 kilometre stage by nearly seven and a half minutes over countryman (and another former La Ruta winner) Paolo Montoya (Macosta Lee Cougan Santa Ana BCT). Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss Bianchi), the French pre-race favourite, struggled back from an early race puncture and late race cramps to take third. Top Canadian was Kris Sneddon (Kona) in tenth. World Cup pro Sue Haywood (Trek-VW) took over the lead in the women's race on the first climb and never looked back, rolling in over 16 minutes ahead of former champion Louis Kobin (Sho Air/Rock and Road).
The opening stage is traditionally the most difficult of La Ruta, with over 4400 metres of vertical climbing (14,500 feet), plus a trek through slippery and sticky mud, and multiple river crossings. The organizers did 'take it easy' on competitors by making the final climb on pavement, rather than last year's extremely steep gravel climb, and it showed, with Ramirez' winning time over 45 minutes faster than Leonardo Paez in 2006.
The field poured out of Jaco in the pre-dawn light, heading east away from the Pacific, to finish in four days and 360 kilometres, on the Gulf side of the country. Within two kilometres the race had left paved roads for first long dirt climb of over 10 kilometres, and the leadres were pulling away. Montoya was particularly strong on this climb, surging off the front of the lead group containing Ramirez, Sandro Spaeth (Ride Magazine - Texner BMC), Deiber Esquivel (IBP Pensiones), Enrique Artavia (Super Pro Banco BCT Santa Ana) and Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain-Haywood). Just dangling off the back of this group was Tinker Juarez (Cannondale).
Missing from the group was Dietsch, who had suffered a flat earlier on the climb. The World Number 1 ranked Marathon rider was steadily working his way back into contention, and was only two minutes down as the riders headed into the national park.
"It was a very bad to time to get a flat," Dietsch agreed "but I didn't have to dismount my tire because I had a sealant in inside which was able to fix it. But I lost some time, and had ride my own pace."
The Park proved to be the key section to Ramirez' win, as he was able to ride away from the others, who struggled in the mud. Exiting the park he had over a minute on Montoya, with Dietsch and Plaxton together a further five minutes down. The gaps got steadily bigger as riders succumbed to the heat, the humidity and the relentless climbing.
"Lico was definitely able to ride the Carara better than the rest of us; we were slipping around and he could keep going." explained Montoya. "I was riding the first climb very well, and felt very strong, but the park was a big problem for me."
Dietsch dropped Plaxton on the final paved climb, after the Canadian had to answer a call of nature and then took a short rest break, and bridged up to Montoya, before leg cramps with 10 kilometres to go forced him to pull off to the side of the course. The French rider hung on for third, but was almost caught by Switzerland's Spaeth in the final kilometres as he struggled to finish.
"It was an important win for me, my sponsors and my country," agreed Ramirez "but the race is not over, and I have a lot of respect for my competitors. I hope that I will be able to continue to lead La Ruta, but I haven't won yet. Guys like Thomas are strong guys, so we will have to wait until the final stage."
- "I had to stop for maybe 10 minutes with the cramps; it is the first time this year that I have had this problem - maybe it is a lack of training," commented Dietsch. "I think that without the cramps I would have been second."
The French rider also waxed poetic about the section through Carara national park: "The walking part was so beautiful, incredible. I know you were supposed to be racing, but I wanted to look around. Going through the race forest, past all the rivers, I saw this big, big, blue butterfly ... it was a fantastic experience."
- "Seven minutes is not a big gap, tomorrow will be the most important stage of the race." asserts Ramirez. "Tomorrow's strategy will be controlling attacks of my rivals for the first part and then making attacks myself in the later part of the stage." Stage two is 75.2 kilometres with 3624 metres of vertical climbing. Locals who have ridden the stage say that the climbs are extremely steep.
- Kris Sneddon: "Toughest race I've ever done. Makes Test of Metal and Checkamus look like a walk in the park."
- Plaxton was expected to be one of the favourites for the race, but faltered on the final main climb. "I didn't pace myself too well. My heart rate was pretty high for the first two hours - in the 180s - I was feeling good ... but then I had to have a bathroom stop. Tinker passed me pretty much standing still, so I pulled off ... and after that I had a little siesta ... and regrouped myself. If I can pick up a stage win that would be great; I'n not so much in it for the overall."
- "The last 10 K for me were the toughest," said women's leader Sue Haywood. "There was a bit of a climb, and it just went on... The first climb went really well for me, but then we got into all the mud, and a couple of times the tires stopped turning - I hate that."
Currently available results:
|1 Federico Ramirez Mendez (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS||5:12:36||Open Men|
|2 Paolo Montoya Cantillo (CRC) Macosta Lee Cougan Santa Ana BCT||at 7:25||Open Men|
|3 Thomas Dietsch (FRA) Gewiss Bianchi||13:44||Open Men|
|4 Sandro Spaeth (SUI) Ride Magazine - Texner BMC||15:35||Open Men|
|5 Deiber Esquivel Benavides (CRC) IBP Pensiones||27:28||Open Men|
|6 Enrique Artavia Cedeira (CRC) Super Pro Banco BCT Santa Ana||29:20||Open Men|
|7 David "Tinker" Juarez (USA) Cannondale||30:25||Open Men|
|8 Thomas Zahnd (SUI) Team Stoeckli-Craft||34:01||Open Men|
|9 Juan Alberto Solis Rodas (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS||36:23||Open Men|
|10 Kris Sneddon (CAN) Kona||38:58||Open Men|
|11 Jason Sager (USA) MonaVie-Cannondale||40:36||Open Men|
|15 Rom Kanga Akerson (USA) Rock Shox - Sram||50:16||Open Men|
|16 Stream Akerson (USA) Heart Transverter||50:16||Open Men|
|17 Cory Wallace (CAN) Team Jasper||56:15||Open Men|
|18 Bart Gillespie (USA) MonaVie-Cannondale||57:46||Open Men|
|20 Jon Nutbrown (CAN) Ridley's-Giant||1:05:31||Open Men|
|21 Benjamin Thompson (USA) www.bendelitemtb.com||1:05:31||Masters A|
|22 Brandon Dwigth (USA) Boulder Cycle Sport||1:06:13||Open Men|
|23 Chucky Gibson (USA) Tahitian Noni International||1:08:51||Open Men|
|25 Max Plaxton (CAN) Rocky Mountain - Haywood||1:12:11||Open Men|
|28 Warren Ellis (CAN) NRG / Eagle Homes||1:16:31||Masters A|
|30 Doug Andrews (USA)||1:17:40||Masters B|
|31 Tony Routley (CAN)||1:18:36||Veteran|
|1 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek - VW||Women|
|2 Louise Kobin (USA) Sho Air/Rock and Road||Women|
|3 Maria Alejandra Carvajal Brenes (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut-Powerade-KHS||Women|
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