Todd Wells (Specialized) showed plenty of experience on stage 2 of La Ruta de los Conquistadores, with the American expertly managing to defend his overall lead in spite of a flat tire late in the race.
For two-thirds of the 63km stage, Wells was with Federico Ramirez (Grupo Orosi Siglo XXI/Specialized) and Rom Akerson (Specialized). The trio were racing for second place, before Akerson attacked and escaped. With the pressure on Wells flatted - a misfortune from which he was never able to fully recover.
"We were together of the descent after the second big climb today and then I punctured. I changed it and then I changed the wheel in the next tech zone," said Wells to Cyclingnews. "I lost a few minutes and could never get it back. It's hard to push yourself when you're alone out there."
"You want to do well, but it's the second day of a long race, you're tired, the climbs are steep and you don't know what's coming up. Having guys around in the beginning helped me motivated but riding the last third of the race was tough. It's stressful out there and I have no idea where I'm going."
Wells, a World Cup cross country racer and two-time US Olympian, has never previously raced La Ruta or any other mountain bike stage race.
Akerson moved up from third to second in the GC and Wells now leads by 7:11, not a huge margin in a rugged race like La Ruta, where anything can happen.
Wells said he felt good throughout the stage, but struggled to maintain his focus once alone after his flat. "I didn't plan to lose all that time today to Rom," he said.
Two more stages remain in the race to the Caribbean Sea.
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