Costa Rican Federico Ramírez (BCR-Pizza Hut) and American Susan Haywood (Trek-VW) have won their respective categories in the La Ruta de los Conquistadores stage race, despite both losing out on a clean sweep of four stage wins.
The final 125km stage started at the Aquiares Coffee State and finished in Playa Bonita in Limón. Although the stage’s profile looked relatively benign, the route included the infamous railway and bridge sections and also saw heavy rain that turned some sections of the course into “waist-deep swamp”. One of the bridges was actually taken out of the course due to fears about its stability in the poor weather.
With a healthy lead going into the final day, Ramírez felt no need to push the pace and was content to follow Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss-Bianchi) and Thomas Zahnd (Team Stoeckli) to the line, the three riders having split from the nine-man leading group along the final railway section. Ramírez lost nine seconds in the final stage, which made hardly a scratch in his half-hour lead, giving him the overall victory for the first time.
2007 was Susan Haywood’s first time at the Costa Rican event, but that didn’t prevent her taking the first three stages ahead of three-times winner Louise Kobin (Sho-Air). Kobin’s experience showed through on the final stage, though, bringing her to the line four seconds ahead of Haywood. “All I could do was follow her to the finish,” said Haywood. Her overall winning margin was 43:18, Costa Rican Alejandra Carvajal was a distant third place overall.
Britain’s Hamish Bingley (Ben Hayward Cycles) rode consistently to finish 45th in the Open category, while the A Masters category saw Charlie Eustace (Ellsworth/Freeborn) as top placed Brit in 32nd having overhauled Vik Chaudhuri (38th) on the final day. Sam Dowling (Fanylion Racing) was 61st, Matthew Kemp (Ride Beyond) 65th. We don’t know why we didn’t see Gary Barwick in the results earlier in the race, but he was 142nd. Garry Christopher was 147th and Jeremy Woodall 155th. In B Masters, Mark Cadle had a disappointing last day, dropping ten places in the overall standings to come in 43rd. Some more names popped up in B Masters, too – Paul Collin (62nd), Trevor Lyons (88th) and Robert Baxter (112th). Finally, Andrew Burton failed to finish the final stage having been running in the top six in Veterans for the whole race.
The 2008 La Ruta de los Conquistadores will follow the four-day format pioneered this year. The dates are 12-15 November 2008 – visit www.adventurerace.com for details.