While much of the spotlight was on Americans Alex Grant and Sam Schultz at La Ruta de los Conquistadores mountain bike stage race this past week in Costa Rica, another American, Thomas Tuner, was putting in strong performances each day.
Turner, who hails from Atlanta, Georgia, spent more than half the final stage with the lead group before he fell off the pace and finished 11th. He also ended up 11th overall on the general classification, as the third American finisher in the race.
On the final day, he was looking a bit worse for wear with bloody cuts to his face and a bandage near his eye. "I went down on a little off camber, greasy, rock section. I overlapped a guy's wheel and he got a little squirrelly. When I hit, my glasses cut into my face, but I got cleaned up and bandaged at the next feed zone."
Turner, who races mostly in the southeastern part of the US at cross country races and some endurance events, is not well known in the domestic mountain bike scene but has been racing since he was about 15 years old.
He's won the Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell and the South Eastern Regional Championship (SERC) mountain bike series. Turner's also been on the top of the podium for the first seven Georgia cyclo-cross races this fall.
The 28-year-old was racing his second La Ruta; his first was in 2008. "It took me a year to forget how terrible this race was, and I got sucked back into it. A few of my friends helped sponsor my trip, and I wore their kits - a different one each day." Thomas was riding for his primary sponsor Jamis as well as Montague Homes, Outspokin' bike shop and Van Michael's hair salon.
Turner commented on the race's difficulty. "There's no section out here that I ride and think, 'I wish I could do that again,'" he said. Thinking of his home trails, he said, "It's a lot more fun than this kind of stuff, which is just suffering."
While some riders complained of difficulties due to the heat and humidity, Turner felt right at home. "I'm used to the heat and humidity, but not quite as much lately as I've been doing 'cross races in cooler conditions at home. This is just a bit of a change."
Turner didn't seem too likely to sign up for next year's La Ruta any time soon, but give him some time and he might be back.