Racing his first-ever major mountain bike stage race and visiting Costa Rica for the first time, World Cup cross country mountain bike Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) has learned a lot with just 50 percent of the event completed.
"This is hard," he said after stage 2. He was speaking both of La Ruta and mountain bike stage racing in general. "I have a lot of respect for these guys. I don't think I'm physically or mentally cut out for this. Those guys went right from the start today - it's super impressive. I couldn't go with them.
"I've learned everything. I knew nothing coming into it. I have more respect for how crazy this race is. I entered it thinking it'd be hard and crazy, but maybe I was a little cocky coming in. I've been cut down to size."
Despite flats and getting lost on course on stages 1 and 2 respectively, Schultz still sits ninth in the GC.
"Today, I got lost. I was out there for awhile and thought, 'This can't be right.'" After not getting much help from some well meaning, but understandably clueless locals on his detour,I made it back on course and just rolled it in. Getting lost is part of the La Ruta experience. If you don't get lost, you're missing out on something."
On stage 1, Schultz, who seems to be taking it all with good humor, suffered two flat tires, the latter of which cost him a place in the top four, the lead group with whom he'd been riding at the time of the final flat.
There's been some other interesting sights for Schultz. "I saw a moto submerged two-thirds deep in a mud bog," he said.
"Then, this one time I was going up the steepest climb I've ever gone up, and there was this huge semi- truck coming. I don't know how it got stopped, but somehow he did. His brakes were squealing."
Despite wishing he'd listened to advice to use a triple instead of a double front chainring, which offers lower gearing for the incessant, steep climbs, Schultz said he's "seeing cool stuff and having a good experience. It's good to have a different perspective on things. To be able to get up day after day and do this so fast is amazing. It might make World Cups seem a little easier now."
Going into stage 3, which heads through volcanic terroritory, Schultz said, "I'd like to say I'm going to attack tomorrow, but I can't guarantee that. I might be dangling off the back again.
"I'm trying to race, and I want to be really hurting after each stage. I kind of messed up after I got off course today because I lost motivation. I want to be deep into the hurt locker by the end of the fourth day, and I think that will be easy to accomplish."
Schultz doesn't have any plans to switch over from World Cup racing to stage racing any time soon. He took a conservative approach to the treacherous, rutted downhills on stage 2.
"Some of those guys really lay it on the line on those steep, rocky, rutted descents," he said. "I played it a little conservative, I was thinking about Jeremiah Bishop and his face after that crash." In 2006, Bishop was leading La Ruta when he crashed and broke his face resulting in a DNF, a hospital stay and surgery.