Events

Parra, Mejia win La Ruta stage two as Leao defends lead

On a stage that was changed and shortened due to a volcanic eruption, Parra extends lead and Mejia pulls back time on Leao

Riders faced an unfamiliar route in stage two of La Ruta de los Conquistadores, as organizers had to make a last-minute course change due to a volcanic eruption from the Turrialba volcano

Luis Leao Pinto (Scotiabank) kept his lead after a 53-kilometer stage between Terramall in Tres Ríos and the Oikoumene Camp in Ochomogo of Cartago. The day offered cold and foggy weather and difficult climbing.

Leao finished fourth on the stage, and Colombian rider Luis Mejía (Coopenae Movistar Economy) won the day.

Luis Mejía had a great start, and even though singletrack isn’t one of his strengths, he proved himself a skilled rider in the Angelina Mountain Bike Park, where he descended alone. Diyer Rincón caught up with Mejía in the first kilometers of the ascent to Tierra Blanca, but Mejía attacked before the descent to Cabeza de Vaca.

Mejía is now in second place overall. On Friday, his win saw him gain three minutes on Leao. “I was able to lower my times a little, but in mountain bike anything can happen, until we get to Limón there will not be a winner,” Mejía said. I am definitely trying to win. It’s tricky, it’s difficult, but all the racers know that this is a tough and close race. It’s unpredictable. We’re looking at the upcoming train tracks, the descent of La Alegría, a very complex stage lies ahead.

“Today I began with the goal of winning the stage, to cut my time in the general results, since the beginning I tried to get some advantage, at La Angelina Mountain Bike Park I did it, in the uphill I tried to keep up my pace since the hills were brutal, demanding, just like the descent. It was a new stage and a very quick one too.

“At La Angelina Mountain Bike Park, Leao stayed back and couldn’t keep up with me. That’s the moment I decided I could take this stage. I already feel worn out. We all got up today a little bit resentful. We suffered yesterday, but I think it’s a shared feeling between all of us.”

Although he still leads in the general classification, Leao suffered on Friday, arriving at the finish line dehydrated and weak in the legs. “I’ve had a very bad day, Thursday I spent almost 40km without water which cost me today,” he said. “That’s why I haven’t had such a good feeling about this. In the forest I lost a bit of time and lost the two first guys. I wasn’t comfortable; it was very complicated. In the ascent I tried to win some time, but I burnt out, and I got to the finish line in automatic because I couldn’t even see the road. I had a big crisis, but at the end I could keep going and get some alright results for today. This is mountain bike, one good day and one bad day,” said Leao. “I think having 10 minutes or one minute [lead] is the same thing, I’m used to suffering. … I’m going to ride my hardest, until I can’t anymore. I think tomorrow you’re going to get the best version of Luis Leao Pinto.”

Meanwhile, women’s leader, Ánngela Parra (Coopenae Movistar Economy), took her second victory. “I took off at Xiomara’s [Guerrero] speed. We went together to La Angelina. I wasn’t going to take any risks. I knew it was very humid. At that point I slipped, and she passed me, I kept my pace, but she sped up, then she got like three minutes advantage. I tried to play with that difference because I knew that what was coming was going to be tough. I chose my pace and people around me were telling me times. I could see her. I sped up after the last checkpoint, and I won.”

Parra pointed out that she doesn’t feel like a winner, and that she knows she can’t take it easy this Saturday. “I have more time difference compared to the first day, but I don’t like to leave things be,” she said. “I don’t like random. I want to have it under control. La Ruta is La Ruta. Tomorrow is still a very long day toward Limón. It will be super dangerous and challenging — the weather, the puddles, the sand, the train tracks, the bridges.”

Saturday is the third and final stage of La Ruta de los Conquistadores, 120 kilometers from Parque San Buenaventura in Turrialba to Playa Bonita Limón.