Some of the Locals Asking for a Treat at Eric's Checkpoint
Had a great (but very hard) time during Day 1 of La Ruta today. There is a strong women's field this year and the organizers are really trying to promote women's mountain biking, which is nice as women's sports in general receive very little attention in Costa Rica.
This stage is typically the longest, 69 miles with about 13,000 feet of elevation gain. After a bit of dirt road the race takes you through the Carrara, which is a jungle preserve. It is always very muddy, and this year was no exception. There is one section of about 12 km which is unridable for the most part. This year there were also many slides because of Hurricane Tomas. I was staying right behind Columbian Angela Parra, the winner of the Pan Am games as well as Costa Rica's Guanaride. Right before Checkpoint 2 Angela, myself, and 2 guys took a wrong turn where there was no marking. We just made a guess where the road split and we where wrong. After some hiking we noticed the other riders were going the other way and turned. It wasn't that far, but still annoying!! After CP 2 Angela disappeared in the distance. I was getting pretty tired and a little crampy so I settled in to my own pace.
Eric was managing the 3rd checkpoint so it was nice to get to see him while filling up my water. As all of my saltpills had turned in to powder, Eric poured a bunch of table salt in to my camelbak. Didn't taste great, but kept me from cramping the rest of the day!
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. Some times it felt super hard, and other times I was feeling pretty good. Angela Parra put some serious time on me, 23 minutes to be exact. I finished in 2nd with Rebecca Rusch about 9 minutes behind me. I'm pretty happy with how the day went overall. My bike worked descent besides some minor shifting issues and a minimally functioning rear brake, but that is to be expected after the jungle!!!
There are some new rules for La Ruta this year which actually seem to be at least partially followed and enforced. No outside support besides at some of the checkpoints. Riders taking outside support on the course are supposed to be DQd.