Dec 15, 2006

Halleluah! La Ruta da 3

Our last race night was spent in the shadow of the volcano Turriabla. For some, sleeping at 9,000ft inspired a restless night. The volcano loomed at 11,000, breathlessly waiting to spew it's red love in our direction. At that altitude temperatures were cool enough to start the fire in the wood-burning stove of our room.
The lodge was the highlight of accomodations of the trip. The road to this Lodge Turriabla was an endless spool of shoulderless pavement and bone-jarring dirt. They had dinner waiting for us cooking in 5gal pots on big wood stoves. Outside, It was a toss up as to which was more threatening, the volcano or the 75miles left of racing.
This jungle diorama had to disappear in the dark at 5am the next morning, when we boarded the bus for the ride to day three's race start. The start was at day two's finish and started climbing up the last kilometers of yesterdays desent. Due to some slackers we arrived late at the start and barely had time to change clothes and lube our chains so by the time we got in line, we found ourselves staring at the back of 400 people. Not an ideal situation.
The upside to this was the fun of snaking through 370 heavy legged people. Tim Daughtery was with me and we made a nice two car train slicing up and through the crowd like a knife in the hand of a family butcher. It was fun slaughtering riders, but as we worked our way up the ease of overtaking others was dwindling, and when we passed a googled eyed Hillary Harrison, the slaughter became much slower and tacticle. I lost Tim (who was on a single-speed) on the climb, and began the rolling gravel-pavement-gravel sections. We were cruising through the last of the foothills before the final drop towards the Carribean. I caught one group of about 5 guys, who I recognized from days before, by holding steady on the climbs then gaining on the desents. After rolling up to them I dropped them for good going into the longest (30min) desent of the day. It was all gravel and loose like a late night christmas-party necktie.
This was the best drop of the race with dry sketchy corners that you could risk taking inside lines on, and as the passing continued I noticed a kid from that 5 man group was hanging with me. At one high speed 90 degree corner, I hit the brakes hard and did a 360 powerslide with my right foot as the pivot. The kid ended up being the son of Hert, the bearded, flip-flop, shirtless and jean short wearing rip-van-winkle. Pro surfer and junior national champ, he was the first Costa Rican I met who could desend well.
And he could climb! On the last climb of the day, he tells me at the bottom, this is my hill, I'll see you later. Later being at the end of the day. Did I mention he was 13 the first time he did the race? One nice thing about riding with him for the two hours was his personal feed vehicle. What ever he got I got. Ice water before the climb, cold baby food in sandwich bags, pineapple. We were set. If you go to Race La Ruta, make friends with the locals. Take heed.
So though I never saw Nys again, I did manage to catch some of my other nimesis before the end of the day. Alone on the downhill after getting dropped I suddenly had a missile on target from behind. It turned out to be Andreas Hestler, who had flatted a couple of times. I took advantage of his monster engine and worked with him to catch a group of 7 guys. It was so impressive watching Andreas motor, and though I like to think I did a share of the work he was definatly the one pushing me.
When we caught that group of 7 locals we were once again blessed with their support vehicle. More cold drinks, snacks and random benefits. This part of the course was a long false flat drop towards the beach. About egual to the angle of putting a couple playing cards under the legs on one end of the dinner table.
We hadn't hit the majority of the railroad track section but the thought of it loomed. Andreas had proven to have a huge advantage on them with his full suspension bike, while all I could de was watch him pull away at times. Just before the a major train section Andreas missed the turn and since I was second in line I was first on the tracks while he went to the back of the pack of 8. At the first bridge I decided to ride it instead of walking, which gave me an instant gap on the group. With about 4 more similar bridges and trestles I found myself with a significant advantage. I didn't try to kill it, since I knew they would probably catch me later, but I wasn't going to give up what I had. After a while of pressing on I see a couple of guys moving up on me, and was eventually caught by Andreas and this other annoying Costa Rican, who I hadn't been able to shake for the three days. I pulled over to let them pull through but Andreas refused and when I asked him if he was tired he snapped at me that he didn't like to be jumped!! Ha. I jumped Mr. Hestler himself. But look, he caught me, I knew he could. I just let it roll. Anyways I let him stew for a while, took my pulls. I did feel a little bad because we had worked together, and formed a little bond up till that point. Sharing food and all that. But racing is racing.
It didn't matter because as soon as we hit the last 5 miles of train tracks, he was gone and I was getting swallowed by the guys behind. Apparently racers behind us had had problems with locals trying to knock them off their bikes on this section but we didn't have any problems. After an eternity of riding the ties, we banked a left and were on a jeep road with the Carribean 100ft to our right. A moment later, the train went by!
No one told me there was an active train on the tracks we were riding. THey didn;t look like they could support a train, they were so beat.
So with the end supposedly eminant I taged onto the back of two riders and held on with everything I had. The road was firm but long and flat and the only relief was the view of waves crashing on shark infested waters.
Eventually one Tico fell of and there was only Marcello and me. He was crushing it and eventually I dropped once we hit the pavement. I caught one more person before turning into the finish shoot on the beach of Limon.
That was the hardest day of all three for me. Hot, dusty, tired and relieved, I got a beer, ate some food, and waited for Topher.