Costa Rica’s La Ruta de los Conquistadores claims to be the toughest mountain bike race in the world – three days, 300 miles, 30,000ft of climbing, jungles, volcanoes… As we write, the 2006 event has just begun, with the 510 competitors setting out at 5.15am local time.
La Ruta started as a vaguely recreational event for local riders (although it seems like a fairly perverse form of recreation to us) but each year it gets more attention from the international race set. This year there are plenty of top racers in attendance: Leonardo Paez (Full Dynamix), Adam Craig (Giant-USA), Jeremiah Bishop (Volkswagen-Trek), Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain Team, Trans Rockies Challenge two-time winner), Louise Kobin (XFusion, Adidas, Magura), Marg Fedyna and others. Not forgetting, of course, defending La Ruta champion Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower-Scott) and Tinker Juarez (Cannondale). Juarez has already competed in the Race Across America this year: “This will be the third time I do La Ruta and I just hope to do well this time and improve the 5th place I got in 2004”, he said.
Frischknecht hopes for a successful defence of his title, “but the competition got harder this year… the race depends on so many external factors and not necessarily your physical fitness. La Ruta is not so much about the competition but about the ever-changing weather conditions”.
They’ll all be taking on local favourites like Pablo Montoya and three-time winner Federico “Lico” Ramírez. “It’s an honor to be back at La Ruta. I have won three times and as a local, I will have a particular advantage during the second stage, as my home is nearby the Volcanoes and I train close to the Irazú”, he explained.
Best of luck to all of them, even though they’re clearly a bit wrong in the head.
La Ruta: Those stages in full
Stage One: Friday 3 November
Best Western Jacó Beach Hotel (Jacó Beach, Pacific Coast) to El Rodeo Horse Farm (Ciudad Colón) (97.5km)
Stage Two: Saturday 4 November
Terramall (Tres Ríos) to Aquiares (Turrialba) (66.7km)
Stage Three: Sunday 5 November
Aquiares (Turrialba)- Bonita Beach (Limón, Caribbean Coast) (122km)