Rom Akerson (Specialized) was not on the default list of pre-race favorites for the 19th La Ruta de los Conquistadores, but after two days of solid racing, the Costa Rican is the top challenger for current race leader Todd Wells (Specialized).
After stage 2 on Thursday, Akerson sits 7:11 down on Wells. On stage 1, Akerson had finished third, 13:44 down on Wells. Thanks to both Akerson's effort on stage 2 and a flat by leader Wells, their gap has been cut almost in half.
"I had a good race yesterday and felt good. Today, I wanted to protect my third place," said the 27-year-old Akerson to Cyclingnews. "Milton Ramos was in second, but he got dropped, so I hung onto Todd. I have a lot of respect for Todd - I'm learning a lot to watch him ride. It helps me a lot to ride with someone at his level of racing."
Akerson made his move after he saw rival Federico Ramirez start to show some signs of fatigue.
"At one point, I saw weakness in both Ramirez and Wells, and I had a feeling I should go. I did and thank god I had a good race. I had my fingers crossed out there that my motor wouldn't break and those guys wouldn't catch me."
Akerson won the U23 category at the 2006 Xterra Worlds in Maui. He was selected for Costa Rica's first pro triathlon team. "I raced with them for awhile and there was a situation with my passport for Pan Am Games and I didn't get to go."
He's also been competing on the road for one of the best Central American teams, Junta de Protección Social.
"I raced for them and we had a little misunderstanding, so I quit that team. Specialized offered me a bike and a position and I took it. I trained hard and I have a new coach. He's helped me with high intensity workouts and better choices of gears."
2011 is actually Akerson's 10th time doing La Ruta. His father, Heart, is also competing.
"I always wanted to do good in this race and here I am trying my best," he said.
Although Wells and Akerson ride for the same sponsor, the two are not really collaborating as teammates. "As we saw today, Rom is an awesome rider. We weren't working together, but in a race like this there's not many places we could work together. It's more of a survival type of race," said Wells.
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