The La Ruta de los Conquistadores is a four day mountain bike stage race that takes riders from the Pacific to the Atlantic through thick mountainous jungles of Costa Rica. Many proclaim this race to be the toughest in the world. Will this race determine the toughest mountain biker in the world? Let’s examine the race. It’s a 240 mile route that
traverses 5 mountain ranges, snakes through sweltering jungles, climbs 12,000 foot steaming volcanoes, descends through rain forests, passes over deep river gorges via suspended bridges, passes through banana plantations, drenches you in rain and freezes you at high elevation. Riders will pedal & hike-a-bike on singletrack, fireroads, gravel, hardpacked dirt, thigh-deep mud, sand and volcano ash. Climbing a cumulative 39,000 feet there are endless granny-gear efforts including 34% grades.
Let’s examine tough. One definition of tough includes: strong but pliant; that will bend, twist, etc. without tearing or breaking. The La Ruta will definitely bend the will and determination of the human spirit. A couple of quotes that epitomize toughness include:
- “Some of the greatest battles will be fought within the silent chambers of your own soul.” – Ezra Taft Benson
- “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary
- “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway
- “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The first edition of La Ruta occured in 1993 when Roman Urbina decided to retrace the 20 year journey of three Spanish Conquistadors through the beautiful and treacherous mountains of Costa Rica. With 34 other riders they began their own quest which would be turned into an annual epic event. The first 12 years saw Costa Ricans capture the first place medal. This years version of the race will have a field of between 250 and 300 riders from over twenty countries vying for completion and the victory. Tough endurance mountain bikers include Alex Grant (USA – Team Factory Cannondale), Manny Prado (Costa Rica – Team Factory Cannondale), Todd Wells (USA – Team Specialized), Federico “Lico” Ramirez (Costa Rica – 5 time La Ruta winner) and last years defending champ Ben Sonntag (Germany – Team Factory Cannondale). On November 2nd the epic journey begins.
I have to say that I thought the Leadville 100 was a tough race. Leadville pales in comparison to this race. This is definitly on my bike bucket list. All riders should heed Juan de Caballon centuries-old warning about the coast-to-coast crossing: “Os macha carna las piernas y nubara la mirada.” Translated: “It will break your legs and blur your vision.”