It’s a busy fall for Whistler’s cycling Routleys, as Will is signing with a new professional road cycling team and Tony is gearing up for the world’s hardest mountain bike race.
After the disappointing demise of the highly successful Symmetrics Pro Cycling Team, Will Routley found himself temporarily adrift as he headed down to Australia for the Jayco Herald Sun Tour stage race. But the lack of affiliation didn’t last long, as Routley’s ride to a ninth-place overall finish among a high-class international field at the Sun Tour led the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling Team to snap him up.
Routley’s strong Sun Tour showing included a break with cycling star Stuart O’Grady in the second stage, and he remained in the top three overall until a weaker performance in the stage five time trial dropped him to ninth. Jelly Belly riders were part of the field, with two racers finishing the final stage in the top 10, and Routley’s ride caught the attention of team organizers.
“Australia was a really good ride for me… that was pretty much what cemented (the deal with Jelly Belly),” Routley said.
While Routley had a few other options after his success in Australia and at the Tour de Missouri, he decided to go with the long-standing American Jelly Belly unit to gain access to the big U.S. and international races that the team frequents.
“It’s a good option for me because the team will get into these big races,” Routley said.
He’s looking forward both to riding with the team and getting a few chances to earn some standout results for himself in those key contests, which could help him attain his goal of qualifying for the Commonwealth Games and 2012 Olympics.
In the meantime, father Tony Routley has been shaking off a sinus infection and logging lots of aerobic rides in preparation for La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the 360-kilometre Costa Rican event that organizers bill as “the most difficult (mountain bike) race on the planet.”
This year Routley, who finished second in the Veteran category in last November’s 15th annual La Ruta, has his sights set on winning his category and finishing in the top 20 overall.
The race between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, which runs next Wednesday through Saturday (Nov. 12 to 15), draws more than 500 top racers and international participants who are gluttons for punishment. The course includes a total ascent of 14,000 vertical metres, including 4,500 vertical metres of climbing on the first day alone.
Routley’s training formula has been pretty simple: putting in the hours.
“That’s pretty much it, putting in the hours, then putting in some more hours,” he said, adding, “For La Ruta, it’s a grind.”
Routley’s race strategy, which is the same as his plan for last year’s ride, is also pretty straightforward.
“Go like hell on Day 1, and then hopefully have a lead, and then maintain it… then it’s defending instead of trying to catch,” Routley said.
What might not be so simple is avoiding the bout with Montezuma’s revenge that beset him last year. This time around, Routley has sought advice from doctors and plans to be extra careful about his food preparation and choices.
While Routley enjoyed pedalling through the jungles, creeks and rivers on the spectacular course, he said bouts with cold and mud made last year’s climb-heavy tracks even more daunting than they naturally were.
“I was freezing to death when we climbed the volcano on Day 3,” Routley said, and mud occasionally added two hours to his already six-hour days.
But nasty sections and death-march tendencies aside, Routley said, La Ruta is an incredible experience.
“Yeah, it has its moments… but it’s a great experience, it’s really cool to do,” he said.
Team Whistler’s Mike Charuk, who won his Master B category last year, is having another go, and Cathy Zeglinski is taking up the Whistler women’s baton from Fanny Paquette, who finished ninth in the open women’s category last year. Routley said Charuk is already in Costa Rica preriding the course.
Olympian Svein Tuft, Will Routley’s former Symmetrics teammate, is among the top riders scheduled to tackle Costa Rica’s tough terrain.