Mata hopes to defend title at La Ruta de los Conquistadores

Monique "Pua" Mata will lead Team Sho-Air/Cannondale at the La Ruta de los Conquistadores mountain bike stage race in Costa Rica beginning on October 24. Mata won the race last year and is hoping to defend her title.

Mata is coming off of dominant wins at the Pisgah Stage Race and the Hotter 'N Hell Hill Climb.

"I'm really excited for this race," said Mata. "It's been a big goal sitting at the end of my season, so to go and defend the title at one of my favorite races is a great way to finish off the year."

Mata will be joined by her teammate Alex Grant in Costa Rica. Grant is aiming to improve upon his second-place finish last year and in two previous years. He would love to finish on the top step of the podium.

This season, Grant finished second overall with a stage win at the Breck Epic and then won the Park City Point 2 Point 100-miler. In preparation for La Ruta, he has been doing some cyclo-cross races and long training rides at home in Utah.

"After completing La Ruta four times, with three second-place finishes, I know what it takes to win, but also how hard that is," said Grant, who blogs for Cyclingnews. "This year I am trying for the win, and with the support of Team Sho-Air/Cannondale I know its possible."

Both riders will do some pre-race route recon with the help of former Team Sho-Air/Cannondale racer Manny Prado. Prado won La Ruta in 2009, but has since retired from the professional rank. He has continued to score impressive results in the masters class, taking the Costa Rican Marathon National Championships and the overall win in the Endurance Series.

Prado's local knowledge has proven useful in the past, and he will lead the three on a recon of the major difficulties in the days leading up to La Ruta.

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