That should cool things off
So ask yourself a question, what generally comes after a big descent? That would be a bit of a climb. To kick start La Ruta’s fourth and final day our benevolent race organisers sent us back up the mountain that most riders had managed to plummet down yesterday. Fortunately it was ‘only’ 500m of vertical to gain on sketchy gravel where smooth pedaling on the loose surface was the only way to make progress – the surface would explain the number of bandages on display as there had been many wipeouts spread throughout the field on Friday.
Worryingly even at 7am the heat in the sun could be felt through shirts and shorts, but an extended high speed descent on road and dirt acted as an efficient cooling system. At this stage I was feeling good and pushing on, with the intention of “leaving it all on the race track” as they say. This plan was moderated slightly on the final climb of the event where survival became the name of the game. More sketchy gravel with limited grip, granny ring, big cogs at the back, no shade, no breeze and temperatures that topped out at 101°F according to my Polar HRM. Deeply unpleasant and some pushing was called for, and standing under hosepipes where available.
But this was the last climb and we could throw ourselves down to sea level and gather into groups for 70km of flat to the finish, with only the rail road tracks and fabled bridges to negotiate. I struck lucky here and got in a fast group of about eight that chainganged more or less together to the end. How hard were we going? I had to pop a caffiene gel to keep up on the flat… I imagine this is what real bike racers do on a regular basis, and like in the highlights you see on the Tour, some people work hard in the group, others (no nationalities to be shamed here…) don’t.
Eventually after over two hours of bone-jarring pedal to the metal the Caribbean was sighted, the group fragmented and it was on the red line to the finish. I crossed in 6hrs 6 minutes for 120km having comprehensively left everything on the track. The top 11 finishers were all under five hours, so again some considerable room for improvement…
Beers were then consumed, tall tales told, the sea was employed to remove large amounts of dust and dirt and remind participents of what they had been sitting on for four days, then a transfer back to San Jose.
So what’s the summary?
- Great event
- It’s hard, but if you can make the time limit on the first day it’s as hard as you want to make it
- Organisation was much better than I’d been lead to believe it would be
- The people are amazingly friendly
- Beautiful country
- Everyone should do it at least once
For those who may be interested I rode a Rocky Mountain ETSX70 kitted out with ZTR Olympic rims, Pro II hubs, Bontrager ACX 2.2in tubeless tyres, coil Revelations and rather more XTR bits than is strictly necessary. Not the lightest build up, around 28-29lbs, but I had no mechanicals or punctures and having the adjustable travel was good – there’s a lot of tarmac climbing and being able to lock everything down before unleashing 5in of travel for the downs was handy. A lot of the locals rode Cannondales with lefty forks, these give huge amounts of mud clearance which helps. Quite a lot of 29ers on display, the guys riding the Stumpjumper FSR 29ers really struggled with mud clearance but otherwise lapped it up, particularly on the railroad sections.