December 17, 2015 (Costa Rica) – The team presentation of the 51st Vuelta a Costa Rica saw the Ride for the Planet squad return after a two-year break with high ambitions. The team is composed of returning rider Cory Wallace, 2-time Canadian marathon MTB national champion, 2nd place finisher at 24h Worlds Championships and 3-time Mongolia Bike Challenge winner! Also returning, Anton Varabei is hoping to better his 2nd place finish of 2013 Vuelta a Costa Rica second stage.
New to the team are David Drouin, Stephen Keeping and Emile De Rosnay. David is a young and very promising rider and the Vuelta really suits his skills. Stephen is an experienced rider and his top result this year was a 2nd place at the GP Saguenay stage 2. Emile is the veteran of the team and will bring his share of experience to the team. The team will be missing Jean-Michel Lachance who had an excellent Vuelta last time with four podiums including a win plus leading the points competition for most of the race. Jean-Michel had a huge accident a month ago that left him with a broken elbow that required surgery, a broken femur and extensive road rash. Thus, Jean-Michel will bring experience to the team as team manager.
Stage 1 – Dec. 13 – Lots of actions on opening stage of Vuelta a Costa Rica
Today was the first stage of the Vuelta, 196km mostly flat going from Alajuela to Liberia. The stage had numerous crashes, one involving a taxi at the beginning of the stage.
Read Anton’s report:
Today we started from San Jose at higher altitude and finished at the coast, passing thru small mountain range early on. I felt the heat as soon as we started to ride hard, and had hard time digging deep barely keeping up at the back of the field, but once we descended down I managed to recover and cool off. As per usual I rolled off the front in my ‘supertack’ with one other guy. At this point there was a breakaway up the road that I didn’t know any precise information on. I knew it wasn’t too far as it was in sight for most of the climb. The guy gave me two pulls and died… So I end up just riding hard on my own, towing him and picking up dropped riders off the breakways, which were either too tired or represented to contribute to my cause. I also kept getting mixed information on the situation as time-moto came rarely and the board was too confusing to read as there were like 5 groups on the road. So I was getting my information either from riders or the follow neutral car, in broken English.
At first I was told only 1 guy left up the road, so I was motivated to chase, then they told me 5 men with 2 minutes up. Then as I was getting zero cooperation from my now group of 5 and about to abort the mission I was told the break was 6 min up, but we were 10 min ahead of Peloton, so figured we could sort of roll at least for top 10 finish with that gap. Turns out it was 10min from leaders to the peloton and I was somewhere down the middle. Few more riders came up from behind. Nearly got in the fight… some riders who a few of us would attack to get rid off would come right back up holding to their feed cars, so at the point i just lost it… They’d do it so blatant it wasn’t even funny. three of us eventually broke clear, but once we were told the gap was bellow 3min to the peloton, we packed it in. So I’ve spent about 80km out 200km chasing and in retrospect should have aborted sooner. Having race radios must be nice…
On last 30km I missed another chase move, when i was still recovering, and not too concerned knowing it wasn’t for the win. Finished off the stage on the positive note however, by winning the bunch kick for 11th place! Was shocked to find out that two leaders end up winning by 12min on us, while the peloton chase in final 60km wasn’t slow by any means…. hmmm.
Strava analysis of the stage here.
Stage 2 – Dec. 14 – Anton Varabei WINS stage 2 of Vuelta Costa Rica!
Anton Varabei, team Ride for the Planet, scored his career best result winning the second stage of the Vuelta Costa Rica and now leading the points competition and third overall in the general classification!
Here’s is what Anton had to say:
My first Pro win! Stage two on paper was best suited for me; mostly flat with no major climbs. So I knew it was today or never! Motivation to get in the breakaway was high, and most likely the only way to win, as i don’t think any of the GC riders would want animate the race on a flat stage, especially after a hard fight yesterday. It was essentially a team that won by 12 min using up most of their riders to drive the break vs the team with the winner of past two editions of the Vuelta. So two best teams were tired. That means I had to go the long way! Which is exactly my strength. Firstly, however I had to survive two nasty hills early in the race.
The pace was high all the way to the hills and it didn’t look like anything would go until then. Luckily I was able to hang on to the group over the hills and nothing has gotten away without me. Once over the top, I had a few minutes to recover as everyone was bunching up uninterested attacking into coming downhill. Perfect. Because this is my domain. Attack into downhill, ‘super-tuck’ and open the gap. I had one rider come with me and pressed on. At first I was nervous, worried that just 2 guys would not be enough to stay away for 100+km left in race… with that heat and tired legs from the breakaway effort in yesterday’s long stage. But the gaps grew steadily up to 9 min at one point.
The GC team uninterested to bring us back, and no other teams made an effort to bridge. I only had to beat one guy. My opponent was significantly smaller and skinnier than me, putting a hurt on me on one of the steep climb but was clearly not a great sprinter and was starting to get weak on the flats. As long as he doesn’t leave me behind on 10km grind at 2% towards the finish I was confident the win would be mine. He made no effort to attack me, likely due to the fact that he was tired. I decided to wait until the sprint rather than test his legs with attacks that could backfire if he was “bluffing” and save the legs myself.
The approach to the finish was supposed to have a few turns, but turned out to be a lot more narrow and technical than I thought. He attacked out of the first corner, unsuccessfully… I was glued to his wheel. He pressed hard toward the next corner and here is where the DISASTER struck! The motos in front of us were too close in front and had to slow significantly more than us going into it. My poor companion totally misjudged the difference in speeds and went full speed smashing right in to one of them right after the apex as they we too slow to re-accelerate. Although I sort of saw it coming leaving a bit of the gap, I too had no choice but run over his body as he came down in the middle of my turning radius.
WE ARE BOTH DOWN on the ground with about 600m to go!
We both got up at same time and grabbed the bikes. My heart sank for a moment; a sure win slipping away. Whoever get on the bike first wins the race. In the midst of the panic and scramble I can’t believe I actually remembered to look at my chain before jumping right back on… unlike my opponent. The cycling gods looked upon me this time, and must have decided it was enough of misfortunes in my career. Miraculously, I managed to put the chain right back on with one spin of the crank. Had it jammed in the frame even slightly, I would have lost the race. I jumped on, looked back and saw that he was still struggling with the bike. The Stage was mine. I even had time to salute the crowd and celebrate. It was glorious! Although, I wish I had the chance to beat him in fair sprint.
I have to thank the team Ride for the Planet for giving me the opportunity to come down here, the support of the staff, neutral support and my breakaway companion’s team for giving us the endless bottle feeds in this scorching heat. I must have gone thru like 30 bottles today, drinking and dumping ice water. Could not have survived out there otherwise!
I’m going to dedicate this to Jean-Michel who likely would have been going for the win in this stage too has he not broke his elbow few weeks ago in Guatemala. He could have stayed home in Canada to recover, but he bought a flight ticket last minute and came out to support us anyway. I’m happy to at least repay his efforts in organizing all of this with the win. Merci! ”
Stage 3 – Dec. 16 – Cory Wallace report on third stage of the Vuelta
December 16th, Esparza. Today was another hot and fast stage at the Vuelta.
Cory Wallace, who animated the final kilometers explains how it unfolded.
The first 2 stages of the Vuelta were an experiment as I figured out how my body was going to respond to 2 months of on the couch training as I recovered from lazer eye surgery and a broken finger. Surprisingly it has responded nicely, although the 40 degree heat and the sketchy riders in the pack have kept things hard.
Stage 3 was a fast race for the first 80 km as riders attacked and chased each other down relentlessly. At the 80 km mark I road up to the front of the pack to give my teammate David Drouin some bottles and told him to hop on my wheel so I could launch an attack for him as he was our man to win the stage with the 3 km climb at the end of the race. He didn’t hop on my wheel and next thing I knew I was off the front by myself. Seeing a couple riders in the distance I bridged up to them and soon we had a nice 3 man breakaway group as I joined a powerful German and a flyweight Tico..
Later we would catch the lead rider, another skinny Tico and we were 4, with a 2 minute gap on the field. Things looked promising but my German counterpart and I figured we would be out climbed by the anorexic Ticos at the finish so we attacked them on a downhill and built a 20 second lead heading into the final 3 km climb.
This is where my couch training tactics kicked me in the ass as I started to meltdown, eventually being caught by 25 riders as I hit the top of the climb, 1 km from the finish. The German kept a 10 second gap on us and finished 4th. I continued my epic meltdown and drifted back to finish 29th, so close yet so far away from my first podium at a Pro road race. The race heads into the mountains for the next couple stages so will be hard on us but our Ride for the Planet team will be eyeing the flatter stages to come to try and back up Anton Varabei’s stage win on day 2!
Check out more photos on Facebook here.