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Another La Ruta, another second place

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Manny Prado and Paul Pagano with a freshly caught Jurel (Horse Mackerel)

Manny Prado and Paul Pagano with a freshly caught Jurel (Horse Mackerel)
(Image credit: Alex Grant)
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Post stage activities look a lot like this...

Post stage activities look a lot like this...
(Image credit: Alex Grant)
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Paul Pagano of Team Sho-Air kept our bikes dialed the whole race

Paul Pagano of Team Sho-Air kept our bikes dialed the whole race
(Image credit: Alex Grant)
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We got a clear look at the Turrialba Volcano from our hotel, you can even see smoke coming out of the crater!

We got a clear look at the Turrialba Volcano from our hotel, you can even see smoke coming out of the crater!
(Image credit: Alex Grant)
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Super soigneur Javier Ruis Arias at the finish line in Puerto Limon

Super soigneur Javier Ruis Arias at the finish line in Puerto Limon
(Image credit: Alex Grant)
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Manny Prado showed us the ropes, from proper jigging technique to reeling em' in.

Manny Prado showed us the ropes, from proper jigging technique to reeling em' in.
(Image credit: Alex Grant)
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Alex Grant even managed to bring in one of my own!

Alex Grant even managed to bring in one of my own!
(Image credit: Alex Grant)

Another La Ruta down, another second place. That makes four seconds for me in the last five years down there. Am I disappointed? Of course, a little bit, but I have no regrets. Obviously I wanted the win, but in sports you can't control the outcome, all you can do is show up ready to compete and give it your best. That's what makes them so exciting. Anything can happen.

This year I was better prepared for La Ruta than in years past. I was more prepared physically, thanks to Adam Pulford and Carmichael Training Systems, I had the best support thanks to Team Sho-Air/Cannondale, and I had great race nutrition thanks to Osmo, as well as Manny's fiancé Betty, who made some delicious bread pudding, which I enjoyed during the stages! I rode better than I had down there in the past, actually surpassing my own expectations for myself and beat the 2011 and 2012 winners. It just wasn't enough for the win this year; Marconi Duran rode an incredibly strong first stage and put 11 minutes on Todd Wells and me. The two of us chased chased together most of that stage.

I've had a few people ask if I am disappointed, starting at the press conference right after stage 3. Obviously it's hard to come away with another second place, but like I said, I rode my best race and left it all out there, so I can't be too disappointed. Each year that I have been second it has been to a worthy winner, and I feel like I gave it the best I could at the time, so I have no second thoughts. All I can do is look forward and aim for next year! At the finish I joked that next year I am not coming back for the win, rather to net my fifth second place finish - maybe I need a little reverse psychology to break the curse of the seconds.

Racing aside, it's always nice to spend some time in Costa Rica. The places we get to see during and after the stages are amazing, and the people we meet along the way are so friendly. I joke with Matt Ohran that it might be worth visiting just to eat the fresh papaya and pineapple. No joke it's that good. So is the fresh seafood. Paul and I flew home on Monday after the race, so we had a day to kill on Sunday. Manny took us out for some ocean fishing in the Pacific, and us gringos even caught a few. Well Paul a few, me one. It was a great way to unwind after the race, and then we went to a local restaurant and ate some fresh ceviche and fried Corvina.

After that, it was back to reality and the beginning of winter here in Utah, which is actually one of my favorite times of year. I have always loved late fall, maybe that stems back to my snowboarding days where the fall was full of anticipation and excitement ahead of the winter.

Now that mountain bike season is coming to a close, I have been thinking back on the past year of racing. It's been one year with Sho-Air/Cannondale, and it's pretty awesome to look at what the team has accomplished. Personally, I have had my best season yet, with my best performances in everything from short tracks to stage races. As an athlete, it means a lot to have a team of people behind you that believe in you, and with Sho-Air/Cannondale that is always the case. With everything from the best product support to coaching services through CTS, they are giving us everything we need to succeed as athletes. We push each other and want to see our teammates succeed. That's what a team is all about, and it's great to be a part of such an awesome program.

Just a few more 'cross races left before I take a little time off the bike and then start to gear up for 2014! Already looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading.