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14th La Ruta de los Conquistadores - NE

Costa Rica, November 3-5, 2006

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Race 3 - November 5: Turrialba to Moin Port, Limón, 120 km

Paez cruises to Costa Rican victory

Riders stage
Photo ©: Rob Jones
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By Rob Jones

Costa Rican pride was salvaged on the final day of La Ruta de los Conquistadors, when Andrei Amador (BCR-Pizza Hut) broke away in the final kilometres to win the third and final stage. Hector Leonardo Paez (Full Dynamix) cruised in fourth, secure in his lead of nearly 30 minutes, to take the overall title. Marga Fedyna (bungalowboys.com) took her third consecutive stage to dominate the women's competition.

The third stage, at 122 kilometres, is the longest, but in some ways the easiest - since it generally slopes downhill to the finish at the Caribbean beach resort of Playa Bonita. However, the riders still climb 1720 m (5650 feet), with 17% pavement, 12% mud and 51% gravel. The kicker is the 25 kilometres of train track - with the rail bed still in place. This is 21% of the total distance. Last year, riders caught a break, when one of the trestle bridges over a river was out of service and the race had to detour around on a long section of road but that bridge is now fixed. These bridges are high, over rivers containing Caiman alligators and have big gaps of 30-60 cm between each trestle as the riders walk across with bikes over their shoulders.

Paolo Montoya
Photo ©: Rob Jones
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The Costa Ricans pooled their efforts, with a ferocious attack by former winner Paolo Montoya (Super Pro-Banco Cuscatlan) in the opening kilometre of the stage. This stage began with the riders heading back up the five kilometre descent they finished on yesterday. By the first two kilometres there was already a front group away, containing Montoya, Amador, Federico Ramirez (BCR-Pizza Hut), Deiver Esquivel (IBP) and Paez - four Costa Ricans and the lone Colombian leader. Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower) and Marizo Deho (Olympia) were chasing at 30 seconds, but didn't catch on until near the top of the first section of climbing.

"The early starts are very hard," commented Frischknecht. "Six o'clock is too early for me! On the first climb I am not ready, and I really struggled. But then I found my rhythm."

Thomas Frischknecht
Photo ©: Rob Jones
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Deho and Frischknecht managed to join the leaders just in time for Amador and Ramirez to attack again and immediately open a gap on Paez. "That was our plan," said Amador. "To attack again and again, to work as a team and try to isolate Paez."

However, the Colombian did not panic and rode his way back up, with Esquivel and Deho hanging on - Frischknecht had been dropped for good at the second attack.

"It was okay, I expected them to attack," revealed Paez. "I just kept my own pace, and let them burn themselves off."

Crossing the first trestle
Photo ©: Rob Jones
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Over the top of the last climb it was Paez and the three Costa Ricans, with Deho struggling 200 meters back. As the race hit the fast paved descent, Esquivel and Ramirez jumped off the front to the most serious break of the day. Descending at over 70 kilometres an hour, the gap quickly went to over 20 seconds, as Paez could not match the pace. Luckily for him, Deho had bridged up, and the tall, powerful Italian went to the front and pulled Paez and Amador with him.

Amador immediately launched a counter attack, but this time Paez was able to respond and the group came back together in time for the first section of rail bed. The race was essentially flat from this point until the finish 67 kilometers later, and there were no further attacks until Amador's final race winning move. "At the final checkpoint, I stopped and had a drink," said Paez "and Amador kept going. I wasn't worried, at that point I knew that I had the victory."

Paez, Amador, and Esquival
Photo ©: Rob Jones
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Amador agreed that there was no chance of overall victory, since he was over 28 minutes back with less than 25 kilometres of racing left. "I was not stronger today, I just had no bad luck. I had thought that it [the last check point] was a good place to attack, since everyone would want to get a drink."

Deho's hard work all day was rewarded with second place, in a sprint finish against Ramirez, with Paez rolling in a few seconds later, and a shattered Esquivel nearly seven minutes down on Amador. Frischknecht took sixth, followed by Adam Craig (Giant USA), with Tinker Juarez (Cannondale) recording his third top-10 finish in ninth place.

Final GC:
Photo ©: Rob Jones
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Paez' final overall margin was a huge 24 minutes and 41 seconds over Amador, with Ramirez, Esquivel and Deho taking over the remaining top-5 podium spots. Juarez dropped one spot to sixth, but Craig moved up one spot to seventh, while Frischknecht improved to tenth overall.

"This year I have had a lot of tough training and races," commented Paez. "There was the Marathon World Cup (which he won), and the Marathon World Championships (second), and then I went to New Zealand for the Cross-country World Championships (fifth). I didn't have a lot of time to train for this event, but honestly it was very tough because of the climbing and the climate change...this race had everything."

So is it the toughest mountain bike race? "Sí," he confirmed.

Race Notes

Eddy Perras, Adam Craig, and Thomas Frischknecht
Photo ©: Rob Jones
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- A number of riders suffered problems, with Craig flatting on the first climb ("fortunately, my Stan's sealed up right away, and I was able to link up with Thomas [Frischknecht]"); Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) flatted three times but still managed 14th; Paolo Montoya lost the lead group when he flatted; and Frischknecht crashed with 30 kilometres to go while chasing the leaders ("Adam (Craig) missed a corner, and the Costa Rican with us swerved and clipped my tire so I went down. I was feeling better in the race today, so I didn't need that.")

- Communications Director Luis Rueda commented on a non-Costa Rican winning for the second consecutive year: "As long as we have good competition we are happy. We know having top competition here will make the locals train harder, and get better. It is our intention that a local guy wins as they get better racing against the top riders."

- Women's winner Marg Fedyna was full of praise for the race. "I do a lot of adventure racing, and this was definitely as good as any adventure race. For a bike race, this is the hardest one I have done. But it was great to start on the one coast, and travel across the country, experiencing all the different parts of Costa Rica." Fedyna's stage time was good enough for 39th and her overall time would have placed her 42nd.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com

Images by AFP Photo

Results

Open Men
1 Andrei Amador (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut                           4.32.04
2 Marzio Deho (Ita) Olympia                                      3.28
3 Federico Ramirez (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut
4 Leonardo Hector Paez (Col) Full Dynamix                        3.37
5 Deiver Esquivel (CRC) IBP                                      6.50
6 Thomas Frischknecht (Sui) Swisspower-Scott                    23.45
7 Adam Craig (USA) Giant USA                                    27.21
8 Eddy Perez (CRC) Dos Pinos                                    27.28
9 Tinker Juarez (USA) Cannondale                                30.59
10 Jonathan Carballo Ramirez (CRC) IBP                          33.58

Women
1 Marg Fedyna (Can) bungalowboys.com                          5.57.34
2 Hilary Harrison (USA) Kenda-Giant                             21.53
3 Louis Kobin (USA) XFusion                                     26.16
4 Rebecca Rusch (USA) Specialized-Red Bull                      42.11
5 Marla Streb (USA) Luna-Red Bull                             1.00.19


General Classification

Open Men
1 Leonardo Hector Paez (Col) Full Dynami                     14.01.52
2 Andrei Amador (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut                             24.41
3 Federico Ramirez (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut                          37.57
4 Deiver Esquivel (CRC) IBP                                   1.17.43
5 Marzio Deho (Ita) Olympia                                   1.19.18
6 Tinker Juarez (USA) Cannondale                              1.21.21
7 Adam Craig (USA) Giant USA                                  1.43.00
8 Eddy Perez (CRC) Dos Pinos                                  1.44.03
9 Marvin Campos (CRC) IBP                                     1.51.47
10 Thomas Frischknecht (Sui) Swisspower-Scott                 2.04.32

Women
1 Marg Fedyna (Can) bungalowboys.com                         19.11.15
2 Louis Kobin (USA) XFusion                                   1.12.08
3 Hilary Harrison (USA) Kenda-Giant                           1.27.52
4 Rebecca Rusch (USA) Specialized-Red Bull                    2.21.29
5 Cristine de Mezerville Ferrero (CRC) Battery                3.58.10