Written by: Jason Sumner
One might think that after a long summer of racing mountain bikes in the U.S. and abroad, Adam Craig would be ready for a little down time. You’d also figure a three-day race with a Mount Everest’s worth of climbing wouldn’t be something the average cross-country pro would be up for.
But Craig isn’t one to turn down adventure, and that’s why he couldn’t say no when the folks at RideGuide pitched the idea of coming to Costa Rica for the 14th running of La Ruta de los Conquistadores. The Canadian-based adventure TV production company wanted to use Craig as the central figure in a show that will be a mix of La Ruta racing action, jungle freeriding and whitewater kayaking.
VeloNews caught up with Craig (Giant) two days before the three-stage mountain bike race, which starts Friday along the Pacific Ocean, and finishes Sunday on a Caribbean-side beach. Here’s what he had to say about preparation, racing in the mud and what the future holds.
VeloNews: It’s already been a long season. What are you doing racing in November?Adam Craig: I’m not really sure. I guess the Canadians tricked me. [RideGuide] did a little piece on me at the Sonoma NORBA. I guess it must have been okay, because they called me again and asked if I was interested in doing La Ruta plus some adventure travel afterwards. I couldn’t say no.
VN: So what are you doing after the race?AC: We’re heading south on the Caribbean coast to do some surfing and get footage of that. Then we are going to head up to the Sarapiqui River and do some kayaking and rafting. There’s also a 30-foot waterfall we’re hoping to run in the kayaks. After that we are going to hook up with another guiding company to do some downhill shuttles. Apparently there has been a bunch of trail building going on in the San Jose area. We’ll go check that out with the DH bikes.
VN: What are your expectations for the race?AC: If I have magic legs I’ll be giving it as hard as the next guy, but if not I’ll just be checking out the scenery and meeting some of the locals along the way. It would be fun to race fast, though. We’ll see. I’ve been sleeping a lot all week so I should be ready.
VN: On your last big trip south you were 12th at the Pan American Championships in Brazil. Certainly that wasn’t the result you were looking for?AC: I think all the American guys were pretty tired. Racing down there is hard. [The Latin riders] start so fast, it’s ridiculous. It was way faster than the European World Cups. At the Euro’ World Cups the guys who start fast are at least riding at a sustainable pace because they want to win the thing. Most of the guys in Brazil went out all crazy and then dropped out halfway through the race.
VN: Even though the U.S. men’s team didn’t fare as well as expected in Brazil, it has to be good to have everyone helping out with the UCI points chase ahead of the 2008 Olympics?AC: It would have been good if we all could have stepped up a little more. But it’s hard when it’s the end of the season and you are going to a strange far away place. It was super hot and your body just isn’t ready for it. I was doing mountain bike rides in the snow back in Oregon, and then all the sudden I’m racing in 90-degree heat with 100 percent humidity.
But it was great that we had staff support and all the top U.S. riders down there. It was a fun trip. We all had a good time hanging out with each other and we talked some about the attack plan for the next two years.
VN: So does that mean the page is turned on the 2004 Olympic mess?AC: I think the key is that everyone who was involved in the 2004 debacle is still in the picture. We don’t forget and we are going to make sure we are covering our own behinds this time.
VN: Let’s talk about Leonardo Paez. He’s the guy most people are tabbing to win the race here in Costa Rica.AC: He’s pretty quick, plus he can talk to the locals and I think that’s a big advantage. It will be interesting, though. He’s super focused and has a manager who travels with him all the time and takes care of everything. But we are going to be out there by ourselves in this race. You are going to have to deal with your own stuff. I’ll be interested to see if the little guy can deal.
VN: You brought a hardtail for the race. Why?AC: I figured there would be less mud-clogging opportunities on the hardtail than on the dualie. And when I have it on my back walking for an hour it will probably be more pleasant. There’s 14,000 feet of climbing on the first day so having a lighter bike is going to be a good thing.
VN: Any La Ruta predictions?AC: I think there is going to be some grade AA struggling. I think it’s going to come down to Frischknecht and Paez — unless I have magical legs. I’ll try to help Frischy out a little bit because Paez is going to have four-dozen Spanish speakers trying to help him out.