Rom Akerson (Specialized) finished second at La Ruta de los Conquistadores this weekend in Costa Rica. It was his best-ever finish in the race of a total 10 times participating. Only Todd Wells (Specialized) beat the 27-year-old Costa Rican, who has spent several years racing adventure races, triathlon and on the road.
Delighted with his race, Akerson said he learned a lot from racing Wells, a regular top 15 finisher at World Cup cross country races.
"During all the mountain stages, I spent time on his wheel, and I watched his gears," said Akerson. "He's taller than I am, and I'm taller than all the Costa Ricans. I've only raced against Costa Ricans and they use different gears. They use way bigger gears and pedal slower."
"After the first day, I'd just sit on him and whenever he'd drop a gear, I'd drop a gear and whenever he'd go up a gear, I'd go up a gear. I was noticing that it was working well for me. The first few minutes, it felt weird and then I started feeling good. His rhythm was good. I was using his gear or maybe he was using my gear."
Wells effectively won the race by gaining a huge margin of over 10 minutes on the first stage. From then on, he defended his yellow jersey. But Akerson never gave up - he clearly put forth his best to challenge Wells each day.
"It's the first time I ever raced against such a high-class athlete," he said. "I tried the second day and got closer. On day 3, I went at it 100 percent and when I was climbing, I bonked. I think I went too hard, but I'm stoked because I didn't save anything on any of the days."
On the final day, the two teamed up to chase eventual stage winner Moises Hernandez. Wells had agreed to work with Rom and if they could catch Hernandez, they'd share a stage and overall wins.
"When we hit the flats, I talked to Todd a bit and he was cool. We agreed to go at the end and try for the stage. We tried and he stuck to his word when we hit the beach. We both pulled as much as we could. We didn't take the stage, but I'm happy with the race."