Anything can happen at La Ruta de los Conquistadores mountain bike stage race, as racers are often reminded by promoter Roman Urbina. The events of Saturday's final stage proved that yet again with some riders facing swarms of bees, getting lost and even threats of bike-jacking.
All four of the top women faced more adversity than usual on stage 4. Winner Adriana Rojas (Specialized) was stung by bees in the final 20km and had to receive medical treatment immediately upon finishing. The Specialized rider was crossing one of the infamous railroad trestle bridges, which are challenging enough on their own, when she encountered a swarm of angry stinging insects. Racers must step from railroad tie to railroad tie high above raging rivers, without slipping and falling. Bees only added to the challenge.
Rojas was not too phased by the bites. "I encountered a wasp's nest on one of the railroad crossings but it's part of the adventure," she said.
Runner-up on the stage Jane Rynbrandt (Carmichael Training Systems) was in a good mood, but not doing quite as well at the finish. She, too, had encountered the bees.
"A group of us got attacked by bees on one of the bridges. A few of us jumped off into the water," she said. "Some little boy helped me run across, and he went back and got my bike for me. I probably got stung 20 times."
To make matters worse, when Ryndbrandt slipped and fell on the bridge, she injured her thumb. Holding up a swollen hand, she said, "I do think that I broke my thumb."
When Ryndbrandt crossed the line in second, everyone was left wondering on the whereabouts of Rebecca Rusch and Louise Kobin, who had been in second and third place earlier in the race. An hour passed and there was still no sign of the two experienced La Ruta veterans.
"We're not quite sure what happened. I think we missed a turn," said Kobin after finally finishing, together with Rusch.
"Between aid stations 1 and 2, we got lost. A group of 8 or 10 people and we were just going on a Tour of Costa Rica. We didn't see a marker for a while and so we were trying to ask. There was some lack of communication. Somebody knew the name of town that the aid station 3 was in, so that helped. We were out of fluid and someone had money and we got Cokes. We were thinking we'd never get here."
The pair, along with their companions, went 20 miles out of the way.
When they regained contact with the proper race course, officials stopped them and asked them to wait and ride with a larger group for the next section of the race. Just before they'd arrived, a solo rider (who was not a racer) following the final day's route had had his bike stolen at gunpoint. He sat glumly in the official's car.
"They made us stop and all ride together in one big pack of like 30 for a bit." All the racers made it through with no further bike-jacking incidents.
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