By Rob Jones in Costa Rica
Federico "Lico" Ramirez (BRC-Pizza Hut) won his fifth La Ruta de los Conquistadores this past weekend, cementing his reputation as the all-time best rider in the grueling four-day mountain bike race across Costa Rica.
In the fourth and final stage, Ramirez finished second to his main rival Paolo Montoya (Economy Rent A Car) in a sprint onto the Caribbean beach at Playa Bonita, 384 kilometres after they left the Pacific coast at Jaco. Montoya and Enrique Artavaia Cedeño (Super Pro-Economy) rounded out the top three in the overall.
Throughout the race, Ramirez often pushed the pace on the climbs, dropping those who could not follow his tempo.
"It is the training that is the key," he asserted. "I train all year for this race. The strategy for me is simple: it is the first and third days that are the most important. The first day is the hardest, and the time gaps are the biggest. The third day is the climbing day, and that is where I am the best."
"Last year was the hardest to win, because it was so wet and muddy it made it very difficult. This year, the first stage was very hard, but after that, it was not easy ... I would say that it was 'comfortable' for me. This year I had Alex [Sanchez], and we really worked together for this victory. He is still young, and has a lot to learn, but in two or three years maybe he could win La Ruta."
So will Ramirez be back to defend his title next year and go for win number six?
Adriana Rojas (Bemose/PQ) took the women's title, with Canada's Sandra Walter (Felt-X.O.) taking second overall after winning the final stage. Sara Bresnick-Zocchi (Pedalpowercoaching) finished third overall.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the La Ruta.