La Ruta de Los Conquistadores or Route of the Conquerors is an extreme mountain bike race, which starts in Jacó along the Pacific coast and leads to Playa Bonita along the Caribbean. The 2013 entrance fee was $1,650 for foreigners and $550 for Ticos. This year 445 entrants paid to be part of this event.
Many cyclists had major sponsors such as behemoths Gatorade and Land Rover while local Costa Rica sponsors included packaged snack producers Pozuelo. Other well known sponsors were Specialized and Scotia Bank.
Riders traverse 310 kilometers of varying types of terrain. The start and finish lines are level beach town paved roads, but during the three-day event the cyclists climbed up the sides of Irazú (11,259 feet) and Turrialba volcanoes.
While passing through the town of Siquirres, Limon, on the final day, the cyclists were treated to a refreshing water spritz from Alvaro Campos, who has been standing behind his home with a water hose every year since the race’s inception 21 years ago. Alvaro says “They need refreshment. It is a tough race” but adds “years ago they would pass with a lot of mud and dirt on them. I would be helping them by cleaning the mud from their bikes. Now they are on mostly paved roads so they just want to cool off.” The cyclists know that Alvaro will be there, and they indicate how much and where they would like the water sprayed with hand signals as they approach. “Some slow to get a soak but I know never to spray in the face”.
After passing the dousing the riders must dismount and port their bikes over the Río Siquirres river walking carefully on the Old Line rail bridge. Family and sponsors of the riders take advantage of this time to check for possible equipment issue’s and cheer on the cyclists.
Divisions of the race include Women’s, Men’s 30-39, 40-49 and 50 and over and Fat Bike (a bicycle fitted with over sized tires to accommodate tough terrain). Marianela Quesada from Costa Rica won the women’s division followed by Sonia Lopez and Heidi Shilling from the United States.
The Men’s division was dominated by Ticos with Erick Sojo taking first place, the Australian Andrew Mock in second.
The Elite (Professionals) Men & Women’s winners, including Costa Rica’s own Marconi Duran took home a $1500.00 check.
The 2014 event will take place from Nov. 6 through the 8. Information can be found on the events official websitehttp://adventurerace.com/la-ruta-mtb/ which is now taking early registrations for next year.