Posted by Editoress on 11/8/05
San Jose, Costa Rica - It is less than 72 hours to the start of La Ruta de los Conquistadores. This three day mountain bike race easily qualifies for the descriptor of "epic". The stats are mind-boggling:
- 320 kilometres of riding
- over 9,000 metres of climbing, with the highest point at 3100 metres
- riders from 27 countries and five continents
The race began thirteen years when ago Roman Urbina reads about the Spanish Conqueror Juan de Caballon and his 20 years trip on the mountains of Costa Rica, in his attempt to explore the country.
This expedition started at the Pacific Coast and finished in the Caribbean. Urbina - a recognized Costa Rican athlete and adventure man - decided to emulate that long voyage himself.
Captivated by the histories of that Spanish General, he and another 34 brave adventurers started the trip across nine of the twelve microclimates that Costa Rica possesses. An adventure that led them to crossing the rain forest, volcanoes, high mountains and crystalline rivers.
Roman determined that such a trip a trip had to turn into an annual competition and that's how La Ruta de los Conquistadores was born. It is now in its 13th year, and is the final event of what is becoming know as the annual "Grand Slam" of endurance racing: Cape Epic, TransAlpes, TransRockies and La Ruta.
"More than a race, La Ruta is a personal growth journey. That's the difference with the traditional competitions of World Cup" explains Roman Urbina.
"There are some segments that cannot be traveled even in 4X4 vehicles or motorcycles. Imagine what type of event is the one that we organize!!!. The competitors will not have any access to external support and must trust in their own tenacity and, in some cases, in the help of other competitors", adds Urbina.
This year Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower) will attempt to become the first non-Costa Rican to win the overall title. Frischknecht is the first world champion (mountain bike and cyclo-cross) to enter La Ruta, and has won Marathon World Cups. However, La Ruta is like doing three Marathons back-to-back. Other pros on the start list include Americans Walker Ferguson and Jeremiah Bishop, Spain's Alejandro Diaz de la Pena (Maxxis-MCS) and Canada's Roddi Lega.
Costa Ricans make up the largest contingent of entries, with 193 riders, followed by the U.S. (107) and Canada (34). The top local hope is Deiber Esquivel, who won the Pan Am Championships in Mexico City only a few week ago.
Urbina explains that the locals take defending the title very seriously. "They work together as a team, and train all year for this race. Some riders will go out early, forcing the (foreign) riders to chase, and then another local will come by at the end."
An added obstacle this year could be the torrential rain that has been falling. Normally, it is dry at this time of year, but the recording-breaking hurricane season (although further north) has extended the rainy season.
"If it keeps raining like this, it will be the hardest La Ruta ever." promises Urbina.
La Ruta de los Conquistadores 2005
Day One: From the Pacific Coast to the Central Valley
Start at: Hotel Punta Leona, Garabito, Puntarenas
Finish at: Santa Ana, San Jose
Distance: 114.1 Km (70 miles)
Max. altitude point: 1,158 meters above the sea (Grifoalto de Mora)
Total ascent: 4,526 meters (15,000 vertical feet)
Day Two: From San Jose to Turrialba
Start at: Los Yoses, San Pedro, San Jose
Finish at: Historical Church of Aquiares in Turrialba
Distance: 77.9 Km. (50 miles)
Max. altitude point: 3,010 meters above the sea (Irazu Volcano)
Total ascent: 2,729 meters (9,000 vertical feet)
Day Three: From Turrialba to Caribbean Sea
Start at: Turrialba
Finish at: Mawamba group, Moin Port, LimÃƒÂ³n.
Distance: 126.4 Km. (80 miles)
Max. altitude point: 898 meters above the sea (Santa Teresita de Turrialba)
Total ascent: 1,785 meters (6,000 vertical feet)
Editor's Note: I am attending La Ruta de los Conquistadores this year, and we will be providing coverage of the event and photographs of the spectacular scenery.
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