For its 20th anniversary edition, La Ruta de los Conquistadores mountain bike stage race returned to a three-day format, instead of remaining with the four-day format it had used in more recent years.
Organizers made the change in an effort to get more racers for the 20th edition of the race and in that they were successful; there were about 450 racers, approximately double last year.
Most racers who had done La Ruta previously told Cyclingnews that they hoped the race would go back to four days in 2013.
When asked about the three-day version, five-time La Ruta winner Federico Ramirez of Costa Rica said, "I don't like it because there's not enough time to make up time. Like in my case, I lost a lot of time on the first day. So this format does not favor me. It's too short."
Both the men's and women's races were decided on the first day. The first day stage winners gained substantial time and then defended their leads or even extended their leads on the remaining two days, both of which were much shorter than day 1.
In addition to dropping a day, the third day of the 2012 La Ruta was also shorter than the final day of previous years, with the rolling, steep hills all cut out and only the flat parts left in. Instead, the final stage started later and racers were invited to participate in an optional (not counted toward general classification) whitewater rafting adventure down a section of the famous Pacuare River. All the elite contenders skipped the rafting and slept instead of getting up for the 4:30 am shuttle to the put-in, but about 200 amateurs opted in, and the general consensus among them was that the rafting was fun.
Two women's competitors, Sonya Looney and winner Monique Pua Mata, were doing La Ruta for the first time, but both said they'd rather race four days instead of three.
"I think I need to come back when it's four days to get the whole experience," said Mata.
Looney, who dropped out of the GC after she had to sit out day 2 due to a stomach bug, said, "I definitely need to come back and do a real finish and not get sick. I'm hoping they bring back the four-day version. I like Costa Rica and would love to come back and do this race again."
Those who had travelled from abroad generally thought it much more worthwhile to come for four full days of racing instead of two full days and a third, shorter day.
There is no official word from organizers about how long the 2013 race will be or whether it will again include the optional rafting.
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.
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