It's been super busy here at the Juarez residence but I started this story shortlly afer returning so here it is although a late race story.
The race and trip went really well! It was all a real blur because of the back-to-back trips but the luggage gods were good to me, the flight was easy, and we had a good trip there. I will always wonder why the South Americans think 8 guys with bikes and luggage can all fit into one van....
But we got where we were going and were safe, despite the rain and
I'll tell the story as best I can and will start with a trip to the children's cancer hospital and then talk about gears.
The after we arrived we visited the San Jose Children’s Cancer Shelter. What can I say about this except it breaks your heart to pieces to know these wonderful children and their families suffer. But they still greeted us with laughter and smiles and we were so happy to be there. In 2010 we will be having a contest selling coffee and the contest winner will win a trip to Costa Rica to race in the La Ruta. The proceeds of the contest will be donated to the San Jose Children's Cancer Shelter. Keep checking the MonaVie-Cannondale website for the details and when we get it all together I will post here, too.
Now about the race. Before I left did not have time to get the bike ready. I was in Florida and got off the plane in the evening and got back on a plane to Costa Rica the next day. When I arrived in San Jose, I decided I needed a triple so Engin our team mechanic put it on for me and I used what we had - 22/32/44. I had a 29/42 and wanted a 22/29/42 but that combo wasn't an option. So Day 1 worked good with the 22 and I needed it. The other two were too tough for this race as the climbing is brutal but the Cannondale FLASH made it happen for me. What an awesome bike. I felt great climbing on the super light bike and worked the gears the best I could.
You can imagine Engin's delight when I asked him to change me back with the double - so for Day 2 I went back to the 29/42 double and it worked better but not perfect. Day 2 was as hard as the first day but I had bad luck and it got worse. I burned myself out the first day and was fried on day 2. Next year Sram is working on a special combo I plan to use for the race....
In the heat of the race I was descending a steep muddy decent and the gold crucifix necklace my mom gave me a few years ago that I never take off hooked on a branch and ripped off. I couldn't go back for it so I kept going. It was such a steep hill and at that point I was still in the front pack. But I couldn't shake the fact I left my crucifix on the hill and it broke my heart mostly because of the sentimental value and how much I rely on the power when I wear it. The race got worse when I took a bad line on another descent and ended up with a flat. I had a tough time getting the tire filled and rode with as much as I could put in. So for the rest of the race I rode on an almost flat tire praying I wouldn't pinch flat. And I still had around 10 miles to go.
Day 2 kept getting worse. I was riding by myself, worried about the tire, my lost crucifix, and trying to keep my 8th place, wondering how I could possibly focus on finishing. Well somehow I turned the wrong way and my tire eventually flatted completely. About an hour later I was just hoping I could find someone to help me get back. I found a race official and still had a long way to go, had no idea what place I was in, but I had a flat and I gave in for the day and got a ride back to the finish.
Days 3 and 4 were now just for fun as I was disqualified for the overall, but I was able to ride and decided to see how it would go. I was angry for the dq and knew I could finish well so I set my mind on it.
Day 3 was an amazing great day and I led the race for about half the race. Midway on the Irazu Volcano Jeremiah passed me but eventually I caught him and we rode together. It was raining a lot on day 3 but we were in front with the lead motorcycle. Well we got turned around a few times and lost about 10 minutes of time and Alex and Ben caught us. We all finished together to the end with a short sprint to the finish and I ended up 3rd but it didn't count. I can say for certain that this day was one of the best days racing with my teammates I can recall.
Day 4 was another fun day even though it rained the entire time. I rode with the lead group for most of the race until the train tracks. I was eventually a few miles from the end in 3rd place riding with Ben Bostrom and I flatted. I made a huge mistake and didn't have Stan's tubeless sealant and was running with a tube or I probably would have had a better chance. Also, unfortunately, I had left my seat bag with the crew and had no tools, extra tube, or anything to repair it. So I rode the last 3 miles with a flat but still finished well in 6th or 7th place. All in all, I felt good about the event and I think I could have had a great overall finish in top 5 if Day 2 hadn't been so aweful.
It was good to race against Roberto Heras, who usually races on the road. He was here this year to better his 8th place finish last year. What a nice guy and great rider. He was a big challenge in the single track and really good at the technical stuff. It was super impressive to see him do so well and I must admit I second guessed him at first. He had a good race and finished 9th overall in the open class. There were a few other road pros and retired road pros there, and it was excellent competition. It was really great to have them there.
One thing missing was the local Costa Rican contingency. I think the race would have had a different outcome as they are always very tough competitors. But Manny did so excellent and it was great to see him with the overall win.
Next year I plan on making this one of the most important races on my schedule. Luck, preparation, and focus is important in a race like this. And if Lance A shows up, it will be fun to race and see how we'd all do against each other in a race like this.
Thank you very very much to Román Urbina, the founder of the race and good friend. I owe a huge thank you to Engin and MonaVie-Cannondale, my teammates and especially Matt Ohran for everything. I look forward to next year.
God Bless Everyone,