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Mejia and Rojas add to stage win tally among the volcanos

Luis Mejia (7Capital/Economy) and Adriana Rojas (Specialized) won stage 3 of La Ruta de los Conquistadores on Friday. The two dominated their races up and over the Irazu and Turrialba volcanos. When the mud had settled, Rojas continued to lead the women's race while Todd Wells (Specialized) remained as the men's leader.

Mejia took off near the beginning of the stage, just as he did yesterday, and the other favorites never saw him again. The Colombian was still far enough down on the overall after stage 1 that he posed no threat to the top two contenders. The real battle in the men's race was among the pair at the top of the standings. Leader Todd Wells (Specialized) had lost time yesterday on Rom Akerson (Specialized) and hoped to lose no more on yet another climbing-filled day.

"Every day has been a different adventure here," said Wells. "Today's stage on the volcano climb was hard. It started out really steep, like with yesterday's climb, then we levelled off and went a little down through a town. Next, we got to the long one-hour long climb up the volcano - mostly paved."

A motivated Akerson attacked his fellow chasers, who initially included Federico Ramirez and Moises Hernandez (both Grupo Orosi Siglo XXI/Specialized), Dennis Porras Murillo (Farmacia Paris/Rod Bike) and Wells. The first time, Wells pulled them all back, but the next time, riders dropped off one at a time as the grade climbing up the volcano steepened and only Wells could keep Akerson in sight.

Hernandez had popped off the back first, followed by Porras and then Ramirez. Alex Grant (Cannondale) chased not far behind.

"When Rom nailed it again on the road climb, I didn't want to try and do those big surges," said Wells. "He was pulling away from me the whole time. I think it got up to a minute by the top, which isn't too bad for a climb that lasted over an hour. I caught him on the descent and we rode together until the pavement."

At the top of the more than hour-long paved climb up Irazu and into the clouds, Akerson led Wells by about 50 seconds. Wells caught him on the descent and the two rode together up the other volcano and down a very treacherous descent.

Upon reaching pavement, Akerson had reached his limit and seemed to be bonking - or at the very least was paying for yesterday's efforts - as Wells powered away from him, padding his lead with an extra few minutes in the final kilometers.

"I was leading on that final huge descent, and when we hit the pavement, I saw I had a small gap," said Wells. "I was going to roll it down the descent. Rom is really skinny so he flies up the hills, but I'm a little bigger, and I figured I'd see what happened. Luckily I was able to get a pretty good gap. I sprinted up the small climb at the end and he was still in sight then, but he seemed completely empty by then."

Wells opened up 2:44 on Akerson in the final 10km, taking second on the day and bringing his GC lead back up to 10:18 with one stage remaining. Akerson hung on for third on the stage.

Hernandez and Ramirez rode in together for fourth and fifth at 8:12. Grant finished sixth at 12:34.

"I spent most of the day by myself after it broke up early," said Grant. "With all the fog and mud, it was hard to let it rip on that descent because you couldn't see well. They put a few minutes on me on the downhill - local knowledge helps."

Grant was without his trusty teammate Ben Sonntag all day. The former race leader had a rough past 24 hours. "All I can say is I finished today. I had some stomach issues last night and this morning and I was hoping it wouldn't affect me, but there was a big hollow of emptiness in my legs today, and I had to soft pedal," said a disappointed Sonntag.

Meijia's efforts paid off in that they have moved him up to third in the GC, although he is still at 25:24. Milton Ramos (Specialized) dropped to fourth while Ramirez sits fifth and Grant is in sixth.


In the women's race, Rojas rode alone to the stage win and extended her GC lead still further to almost 24 minutes. Louise Kobin (Global Biorhythm Events) had a strong day and pedalled to second place. Third placed Rebecca Rusch (Specialized) struggled more today and rode for a time in fourth place before moving up one spot on the final downhill.

Rojas took a conservative approach to the stage as she keeps her eye on the final prize - an overall win tomorrow when the race reaches the Caribbean Sea.

"From the start, I wanted to ride with the other girls, but I ended up riding by myself most of the time. I wanted to ride smoothly and in a relaxed way, especially at the top of the volcano, so I could take care of myself and my bike on the downhill," said Rojas.

"I wanted to make sure I have enough strength left for tomorrow. This race is about winning and losing. Anything can happen tomorrow."

Rojas made it safely through the final descent, which is notoriously rough and tricky. Today it was also wet as the volcano was shrouded in clouds and a steady mist fell upon it.

"I wasn't expecting the downhill to be as slick as it was. In other years, it was drier," said Rojas.

Kobin had a good day and earned a second place, her highest finish so far this La Ruta. "It was hard, but I felt more like my normal self," said Kobin, who was with Jane Rynbrandt (Carmichael Training Systems) for a time on the big climb.

"Jane caught me at some point on the climb," said Kobin, "but I know that climb and I wanted to push it. I also like to descend, so I got away from her." The five-time La Ruta winner enjoyed the downhill. "It was wet, but it wasn't raining. It's always a little sketchy, but it was fun."

Rusch had a tough start and spent the early part of the day in fourth place before eventually catching and overtaking Rynbrandt.

"These starts are brutal. My plan was to ride away from everyone on the long uphill, but it didn't really pan out," said Rusch. "It was kind of the other way around. Then I caught Jane and closed a bit on Louise."

Rusch found the downhill stressful as she confronted her tired body and mind. "My hands and feet were cramping. I just wanted to make it down - visibility was bad with it misting. I'm happy I made it through unscathed and was 15 minutes faster than last year."

The women may spend more time together on the final stage. Rojas said she would stay back with her competition for at least the first half, then she will try to stay ahead on the railroad tracks and bridges on the last part of the route.

The first video below contains race footage provided by Matt Ohran of Cannondale.

Brief Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Luis Mejia (Col) 7Capital/Economy3:28:42
2Todd Wells (USA) Specialized0:02:44
3Rom Akerson (CRc)0:05:51
4Moises Hernandez Araya (CRc) Grupo Orosi Siglo XXI/Specialized0:08:12
5Federico Ramirez Mendez (CRc) Grupo Orosi Siglo XXI/Specialized
6Alex Grant (USA) Cannondale Factory Racing0:12:34
7Milton Ramos (Hon) Specialized0:15:51
8Dennis Porras Murillo (CRc) Farmacia Paris/Rod Bike0:17:15
9Ben Sonntag (Ger) Cannondale Factory Racing0:17:25
10Gerry D Cody (USA) Herbalife240:29:24

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Adriana Rojas (CRc)4:42:28
2Louise Kobin (USA) Global Biorythm Events0:04:43
3Rebecca Rusch (USA) Specialized/RedBull0:07:04
4Jane Rynbrandt (USA)

Men general classification after stage 3
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Todd Wells (USA) Specialized13:09:57
2Rom Akerson (CRc) Specialized0:10:18
3Luis Mejia (Col) 7Capital/Economy0:25:24
4Milton Ramos (Hon) Specialized0:28:04
5Federico Ramirez Mendez (CRc) Grupo Orosi Siglo XXI/Specialized0:36:30
6Alex Grant (USA) Cannondale Factory Racing0:43:53
7Moises Hernandez Araya (CRc) Grupo Orosi Siglo XXI/Specialized0:49:43
8Ben Sonntag (Ger) Cannondale Factory Racing1:12:45
9Alexander Sanchez Calderon (CRc) Specialized1:44:55
10Gerry D Cody (USA) Herbalife241:46:31

Women general classification after stage 3
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Adriana Rojas (CRc)17:12:49
2Rebecca Rusch (USA) Specialized/RedBull0:23:57
3Louise Kobin (USA) Global Biorythm Events0:49:24


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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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