La Ruta de los Conquistadores starts on the west coast of Costa Rica in a
small beach town called Jaco. The main road in the town is in worse
condition than any gravel road I have ever ridden. La Ruta starts "around"
5 am, depending on when they get the Red Bull starting banner up and when
people get to the start. The first day goes though the rain forest and as
soon as the sun comes up it gets really hot and humid. The climbing starts
pretty much right away, and it is granny gear steep. After a little while
the climbing gets so muddy and slick you have to hike most of the way for
about an hour. There are some really slick fun downhills too. There are a
few creek crossings and there are volunteers spraying down your chain with
motor oil. It works great in the wet climate.
I started out slow as usual, and it took me a couple of hours to pass all
the women. There was a strong Costa Rican woman that kept passing me for a
while, but I ended up first female and in the top 40 overall with a time of 6:52.
The second day starts in the middle of downtown San Jose. This year I managed to make it to the start on time. They don't really stop traffic, so
just imagine 400 riders in rush hour traffic in Central America. It is
pretty crazy and a little scary. We start climbing on the road right away,
and go up to the top of Costa Rica's highest volcano (I think it's a little
over 11,000 feet). It took me 3 hrs and 45 minutes to get to the top. After that you turn onto a really rocky trail and go down hill for about an hour and a half. It was awesome, but some sections were pretty schetchy. I ended up in first followed by a Costa Rican and a woman from South Africa.
On the third day I woke up feeling pretty crappy. I had a cold and was
coughing up a lung for most of the day. I thought maybe I should take it
kind of easy since I had about an hour lead, but after riding for a couple
of hours I started to catch up with people and I just got kind of excited
about racing and forgot about taking it easy. The 3rd stage is probably the
hardest for me. It has quite a bit of climbing for the first 3 hrs, but
after that it is a lot of flat road. I was by myself on the road, which was
a bummer. It can really help out if you team up with a group, but that didn't happen. After the road we hit the rail road tracks. There is probably over an hour of riding on the bumpy tracks, and there are several long bridges to cross where the rail road ties are slick, some are rotten or just broken, so you have to jump (if you are short like me) with your bike on your shoulder. Not very comforting looking down at the river 30 feet below. There are tons of local kids sprinting across the bridges offering to carry your bike across for tips. Makes you feel like a whimp!!! I won day 3 too, but only by minutes. There was a whole group right behind me!!
I can't believe I had absolutely no problems with my bike! (Except for a
flat on the railroad) People were having all kinds of suspension problems,
broken shifters, bikeparts just rattling off because of the rough terrain.
I did nothing to my bike the whole time, except rinsing it off and lubing
the chain. I think whoever wants to really put their equipment to the test
should try doing La Ruta. Thanks for all your help with the awesom equipment!!!! Lou