The 2005 La Ruta de los Conquistadores has always been in a category of its own when it comes to mountain bike racing. It’s not overly technical, following a mix of mountain roads and paths for the most part, but when you factor in the long climbs, long stages, wet clay, and the general heat and humidity of Costa Rica, it can be a heart-breaker.
The first of the three days is the hardest, with 4,526 metres of climbing over just 114.1 km. Day two is 77.9 km with 2,729 metres of climbing and a maximum altitude of 3,010 metres – almost 800 metres higher than the entrance to the Blackcomb Glacier.
Day three is considered the easiest. On paper it’s 126.4 km with just 1,785 metres of climbing, although the route was changed this year after a bridge was washed out in hurricane flooding.
For the first time in its 12-year history, the overall title went to a non-Costa Rican. Swiss rider Thomas Fischknecht, the reigning World Cup marathon champion, completed the three stages in 14 hours, 32 minutes and 58 seconds. In second place, 13 and a half minutes behind, was Marvin Capos Suazo of Costa Rica. Paolo Cesar Cantillo of Costa Rica was third in 14:49:29.
The top Canadian was Team Norco’s Roddi Lega, the national cyclocloss champion. Lega finished in 15:53:52.
According to Canadian Cyclist, American rider Jeremiah Bishop (the top American in fifth) believes La Ruta is the hardest race in the world. Firschknecht said it wasn’t, at least not yet – when all of the top riders in the world start coming out and pushing each other, "It would definitely be the hardest."
Four local riders took part this year – Ryan Watts and Hillary Harrison from Pemberton, Charlotte Klein of Squamish and Whistler’s Duncan Munro. All were still in Costa Rica at press time.
Watts, who has raced the Trans Alp Challenge in Europe twice, had a strong three days and finished 46 th out of almost 240 riders with a time of 19:07:57. He also posted better and better results over the three days of racing.
Munro, who has only been in two long-distance bike races, finished 226 th in 27:27:02. Charlotte Klein was three spots back in 228 th , 14 th among women, with a time of 27:31:27.
Hillary Harrison’s results were not posted.
For more information on the ride visit www.adventurerace.com.