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16th La Ruta de los Conquistadores - NE
Costa Rica, November 12-15, 2008
Stage 4 - November 15: Turrialba to Bonita Beach, 125 km
Five times and counting for Ramirez
By Rob Jones in Bonita Beach
Federico 'Lico' Ramirez (BRC-Pizza Hut) won his fifth La Ruta on Saturday, cementing his reputation as the all-time best rider in this gruelling four-day mountain bike race across Costa Rica. Ramirez finished second to his main rival Paolo Montoya (Economy Rent A Car) in a sprint onto the Caribbean beach at Playa Bonita on stage 4, 384 kilometres after they left the Pacific coast at Jaco. Ramirez's team mate Alexander Sanchez finished third. Adriana Rojas (Bemose/PQ) took the women's title, with Canada's Sandra Walter (Felt-X.O.) taking second overall after winning the final stage.
Cory Wallace (Freewheel Cycles) was the top Canadian finisher in 12th, followed by Brian Cooke (Bicycle Cafe) in 14th. Wallace fell out of the top ten after double-flatting in the final stage. Mike Charuk (Team Whistler) gave Canada the Master B title, while Tony Routley (Team Whistler) took third in the Veteran category.
The final stage began with a serious gravel climb through the coffee plantations surrounding the town of Aquiares. After a long descent, the riders hit the final steep climb of the race, before descending again on pavement to the final obstacle of La Ruta - train tracks. After 25 kilometres of bone-jarring tracks, plus multiple trestle bridges 10 metres above roaring rivers that softened riders further they hit the final gravel road run into Play Bonita.
Ramirez used the same tactic that worked so well in stage three - have Sanchez set a punishing pace up the first climb, with only Montoya able to follow the two team mates. The rest of the top riders coalesced into a chase group, but were quickly falling behind; 10 minutes in arrears by the top of the final climb.
In the group were Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss-Bianchi), Manual Prado (Sho Air-Rock N' Road), Radoslav Sibl (Bikezone.cz), Marvin Campos (Super Pro-Economy), Harlan Price (Independent Fabrications), Roberto Heras (Giant), Thomas Turner (Van Michael Salon), Enrique Artavia (Super Pro-Economy) and Cory Wallace (Freewheel Cycle).
Dietsch was setting the tempo on the climbs, and splitting things up slightly each time, with the group coming back together on the descents. Both Heras and Wallace were victims of flats - Heras once and Wallace twice. Both riders came back to the chase group after they flatted before the final climb, but Wallace flatted again on the train tracks and was unable to return to the group, finishing nine minutes behind them.
At the front, the trio worked together until the end, as the chase split and began to reel them in. Coming around the final corner for the final 100 metre run-in to the beach finish, Montoya grabbed the lead to take his second stage victory. Two riders broke off the front of the chase and were making a serious dent in the time gap - Sibl and Price. They more than halved the time difference to 4:33 at the finish, with Sibl outkicking Price for fourth. Campos led home the chasers for sixth place.
After his win, Ramirez took a few minutes to discuss what makes him so good at La Ruta.
"It is the training that is the key," he asserted. "I train all year for this race. The strategy for me is simple: it is the first and third days that are the most important. The first day is the hardest, and the time gaps are the biggest. The third day is the climbing day, and that is where I am the best."
"Last year was the hardest to win, because it was so wet and muddy it made it very difficult. This year, the first stage was very hard, but after that, it was not easy ... I would say that it was 'comfortable' for me. This year I had Alex [Sanchez], and we really worked together for this victory. He is still young, and has a lot to learn, but in two or three years maybe he could win La Ruta."
So will Ramirez be back to defend his title next year and go for win number six?
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com
Images by La Ruta
Open men 1 Paolo Montoya Cantillo (CRi) Economy Rent A Car 2 Federico Ramirez Mendez (CRi) Bcr-Pizza Hut 3 Alexander Sanchez Calderon (CRi) Bcr-Pizza Hut 4 Radoslav Sibl (Cze) Bikezone.Cz/Mrx 5 Harlan Price (USA) Independent Fabricat 6 Marvin Campos Suazo (CRi) Super Pro - Economy 7 Manuel Prado (CRi) Sho-Air/Rock N'road 8 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Esp) 9 Thomas Turner (USA) Van Michael Salon 10 Thomas Dietsch (Fra) Gewiss-Bianchi 11 Enrique Artavia Cedeno (CRi) Super Pro - Economy 12 Cory Wallace (Can) Freewheel Cycle Women 1 Sandra Walter (Can) Pedal Magazine 2 Sara Bresnick-Zocchi (USA) Pedalpowercoaching 3 Adriana Rojas Cubero (CRi) Bemosa / Pq 4 Lisa Pleyer (Aut) 5 Tamara Goeppel (Can) Leki Bikextreme Master B 1 Melvin Rojas Alfaro (CRi) Citi - Litespeed 2 Peter Stevenson (Can) Experience Cycling 3 Mike Charuk (Can) Team Whistler/Ryders ... 7 Andrew Handford (Can) Different Bikes 9 Doug Andrews (USA) Gpsupload.com ... 29 Claude Laberge (Can) Team Marty's 30 Dave Howells (Can) Bc Bike Race 33 Mario Turgeon (Can) Lessard Bicycles 37 Steve Walsh (Can) Zimtek/Schmoe Racing 39 Gervais Levesque (Can) Final General classification Open men 1 Federico Ramírez Méndez (CRi) Bcr-Pizza Hut 2 Paolo Montoya Cantillo (CRi) Economy Rent A Car 3 Enrique Artavia Cedeño (CRi) Super Pro - Economy 4 Thomas Dietsch (Fra) Gewiss-Bianchi 5 Manuel Prado (CRi) Sho-Air/Rock N'road 6 Alexander Sánchez Calderón (CRi) Bcr-Pizza Hut 7 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Esp) 8 Marvin Campos Suazo (CRi) Super Pro - Economy 9 Radoslav Sibl (Cze) Bikezone.Cz/Mrx 10 Harlan Price (USA) Independent Fabrications 11 Thomas Turner (USA) Van Michael Salon 12 Cory Wallace (Can) Freewheel Cycle 14 Brian Cooke (Can) Bicyclecafe ... 22 Fred Dreier (USA) Velo News Magazine 24 Dain Zaffke (USA) Bike Magazine/WTB 34 Erik Bakke (USA) Deadgoat Racing 47 Tom Hipsz (Can) 50 Ryan Schellenberg (Can) Women 1 Adriana Rojas Cubero (CRi) Bemosa / Pq 2 Sandra Walter (Can) Pedal Magazine 3 Sara Bresnick-Zocchi (USA) Pedalpowercoaching 4 Tamara Goeppel (Can) Leki Bikextreme 5 Lisa Pleyer (Aut) Master A 1 Santos Corea Gutierrez (CRi) Citi - Litespeed 2 Diego Chaverri Madden Luis (CRi) Guanaride 3 Sam Humphrey (GBr) Charge Bikes 4 Randall Aguilar Quesada (CRi) Taller Rj Paraiso 5 William Valverde Barquero (CRi) Vedova Y Obando Master B 1 Mike Charuk (Can) Team Whistler/Ryders 2 Melvin Rojas Alfaro (CRi) Citi - Litespeed 3 Andrew Handford (Can) Different Bikes 4 Peter Stevenson (Can) Experience Cycling 5 Doug Andrews (USA) Gpsupload.com ... 22 Claude Laberge (Can) Team Marty's 28 Steve Walsh (Can) Zimtek/Schmoe Racing 29 Dave Howells (Can) Bc Bike Race 38 Mario Turgeon (Can) Lessard Bicycles 41 Gervais Levesque (Can)