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16th La Ruta de los Conquistadores - NE
Costa Rica, November 12-15, 2008
Stage 1 - November 12: Jacó to Ciudad Colón, 110km
Ramirez rolls into the lead
By Rob Jones
The 2008 edition of La Ruta has become a one-man show after a dominating performance by defending champion Federico "Lico" Ramirez (BCR-Pizza Hut) on the opening stage. Ramirez crushed the nearest rider, archrival Paolo Montoya (Economy Rent A Car), by over 10 minutes. The anticipated battle with three-time Vuelta a Espana winner Roberto Heras (Giant) did not materialize, as the Spanish rider faltered on the climbs, finishing over 25 minutes behind in fifth place.
"I didn't know about all the hills," said Heras. "There were so many up-hills and down-hills. But now that I have experienced it, I feel more positive for the next stages."
The top woman was Adriana Rojas Cubero, two hours and 20 minutes behind Ramirez.
After an 18 kilometre paved run north along the coast from Jaco, the race turned inland for the first climb - a 10-plus kilometre gravel slog that quickly separated out the contenders. Over the top, nine riders headed into the Carara National Park: Ramirez, Montoya, Heras, Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss-Bianchi), Enrique Artavia (Super Pro-Economy), Manny Prado (Sho-Air-Rock N' Road) and Dennis Porras (Super Pro-Economy), Marvin Campos (BCR-Pizza Hut) and Alexander Sanchez (BCR-Pizza Hut).
Campos, Prado and Sanchez fell back slightly in the heavy mud, treacherous descents and hike-a-bike sections of Carara, leaving six together as the leaders hit checkpoint two after the park. Dietsch stopped at the checkpoint to deal with a slow leak, and stock up on water and food while the others (who had team support) continued on.
Shortly after the checkpoint, as the race hit the first of an endless series of steep gravel climbs, Montoya attacked, with only Ramirez able to respond. The two quickly opened a gap on Heras, Porras and Artavia, none of whom were capable of chasing after the effort required in Carara Park.
Dietsch, however, was and made an impressive effort to pass the other chasers and bridge up to Ramirez and Montoya before the third checkpoint. The trio were steadily pulling away from Artavia, who had dropped Heras. Heras was struggling with the constant climbs, and was eventually passed by Prado.
The leaders had moved onto the main paved climb at the front, and it was time for Ramirez to launch a devastating attack, which neither Montoya or Dietsch were capable of answering. Montoya dropped Dietsch to grab second, which he held to the finish, but Dietsch was running into logistical problems.
The fourth checkpoint, where he planned to stock up on food and water, was missing the expected neutral service. This forced the French rider to ride the final 50 kilometres with nothing to eat or drink.
"The last 50 kilometres I had nothing, no water, no food," he said. "In this race you cannot ride like that, it means you have no power. If I had been able to get something [at the checkpoint], I know I could have kept third."
Ramirez cruised in to win, followed by Montoya, Artavia, Prado and Heras, while Dietsch limped home in sixth place, pale and shakey.
Ramirez and Montoya have no love lost between them, with Ramirez taking the single Olympic Games spot which many in Costa Rica thought should have gone to Montoya. So it was natural to wonder if both riders had something to prove at La Ruta.
"This is not about proving anything," said Ramirez. "The Olympics are past, and this is just about winning La Ruta. In Carara, I had some difficulties with the mud and the running, but later on I had more power.
"Paolo and I attacked and got a good gap," he added. "I haven't been doing so much mountain biking, so my technique is not as good and it was better for me to attack on the pavement and get a gap."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com
Images by La Ruta
Elite men 1 Federico Ramírez (CRC) BCR-Pizza Hut 5.54.40 2 Paolo Montoya (CRC) Economy Rent a Car-Seven Capital 10.14 3 Enrique Artavia (CRC) Súper Pro-Economy Rent a Car 23.27 4 Manuel Prado (CRC) Sho Air-Rock and Road Cyclery 25.18 5 Roberto Heras (ESP) Giant España 25.21 6 Thomas Dietsch (FRA) Gewiss-Bianchi 28.19 Elite women 1 Adriana Rojas (CRC) Bemosa –PQ 8.13.28 Master A 1 Santos Corea (CRC) Aval-Litespeed 6.55.24 2 Pere Sánchez (ESP) CC Bicis Esteve 16.32 3 José Beltrán (MEX) Turbo 18.55 Master B 1 Mike Charuk (CAN) Team Whistler-Ryders 7.06.17 2 Andrew Handford (CAN) Different Bikes 22.18 3 Meter Stevenson (CAN) Experience Cycling 27.40 4 Jan Kopka (CZE) Independant 30.35 Veterans 1 Roberto Ballestero (CRC) KHS Bikes 7.51.30