While day two at La Ruta de Los Conquistadores on Thursday didn’t pack as much culminative elevation as day one’s stage, the profile map of stage 2 looked like a cardiogram gone mad.
The first climb included a 2km stretch of 30-percent pitch, an incredulous Ismael Ventura noted after the 48-mile stage. The Spaniard said his bike computer was reading consistent gradients of 25 to 30 percent on the climb.
“When it was 18 percent or 20 percent it felt easy,” said Ventura, winner of a race equally as grueling as La Ruta — the 2010 IronBike in Italy.
For five-time La Ruta champ and local favorite “Lico” Ramirez, the first monster climb of the day meant it was time to attack. Ramirez gave up 12 mins 33 seconds to stage-1 winner Ben Sonntag on Wednesday. Ramirez, however, managed to claw back 4 mins 44 secs after winning stage 2.
Sonntag minimized the damage by riding all day with his Cannondale Factory Racing teammate Alex Grant. The pair finished second and third with the same time.
Going into Friday’s stage 3 — which will be battled on Ramirez’s home turf and include ascending the volcano Irazu — the general classification has Sonntag leading at 10 hrs 01 mins with Grant at 2 mins 29 secs behind and Ramirez 7 mins 49 secs off the lead. Ramirez didn’t race in last year’s La Ruta due to a dispute between the race oranizer and the Costa Rica Cycling Federation.
As far as Friday’s stage 3, both Sonntag and Grant are keenly aware that Ramirez — who is showered on the course with calls of “arriba Lico!” from local fans — will be on the hunt as the day unfolds.
Indeed, Ramierz said he plans to attack early so he can be alone during the latter part of the stage when the course hits gnarly fast descents.
“It’s going to be tough to hold him off,” Grant said.
Sonntag, however, said he isn’t ready to concede the day. It is La Ruta, afterall, and anything can happen.
“Thinking about how much time I could lose tomorrow I don’t think is a good recipe,” Sonntag said. “In the end I hope to stick with those guys.”
La Ruta finishes Saturday at the end of stage 4 on the Caribbean coast. The race covers more than 250 miles and started on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.
Stage 2 Highlights
• Colombian Angela Parra duplicated her stage-1 win by being the first woman across the line again on stage 2. Parra, however, didn’t gap the women’s field by much on Thursday. She finished 3 mins 31 secs ahead of second-place woman and 2009 La Ruta women’s champ Louise Kobin. In third place 13 mins 24 secs back is Rebecca Rusch. Parra sits atop the women’s general classification at 12 hrs 37 mins 16 secs, about 27 minutes ahead of Kobin and about 46 minutes in front of Rusch.
• The big loser on stage 2 was Columbian Luis Mejia. He and “Lico” Ramirez took off on an early flyer and were working together ahead of race leader Ben Sonntag and Alex Grant. About halfway into the stage, however, Mejia suffered a flat and dropped into the field finishing nearly 26 minutes behind stage-winner Ramirez. After finishing second on stage 1, Mejia is now in fifth place overall nearly 23 minutes behind GC leader Sonntag.
• Subaru-Trek racer Sam Schultz continues to receive rookie La Ruta lessons. On Wednesday’s stage 1, Schultz went out hard and finished cooked. During stage two on Thursday, Schultz added to the day’s difficulty after he took a wrong turn and was informed by an elderly local that the rider was “number one” — at the top of an unneeded and hellish climb. After stage 2, the always-smiling Montanan said he is now reconsidering pre-La Ruta advice about the necessity of running a triple chainring.
“I don’t think I gave La Ruta the respect it deserves,” Schultz said, adding that he “managed to bounce off a car” at one point during stage 2. “It’s insane,” he said.
Tres Rios to Turrialba 85km (53mi)
Climbing from the gun, racers will ride up to the volcano Irazu, and past the volcano Turrialba, with the course topping out at over 9,000 feet. Winning times will be approximately four hours.