Lance Armstrong in Costa Rica for the toughest mountain bike race

Writen by Adrian Solano
Lance Armstrong in Costa Rica for the toughest mountain bike race

The American Lance Armstrong was present in what is considered the toughest mountain bike race in the world, here in Costa Rica.

The Ruta de los Conquistadores 2018 (Route of the Conquerors) started on Thursday at Jacó beach and ended this Saturday at Playa Bonita de Limón, with a total length of 226 km in the middle of all types of land and landscapes.

Former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong was the most awaited figure for this edition of the race, as it was his first time in what is considered the toughest mountain bike race in the world, due to the accumulated altimetry and the fact that cyclists cross all types of terrains.

The Spanish Josep Betalú and the Costa Rican Federico “Lico” Ramírez were also among the most outstanding names of this edition; edition that had more than 400 registered cyclists.

Stage 1, on Thursday, November 1, was 86 km away and started in front of the Hotel Croc’s Casino Resort in Jaco Beach at 5.15 a.m. and ended at Finca El Rodeo in Ciudad Colón. This first day we counted on approximately 3617 accumulated meters of ascent and 2800 meters of accumulated descent.

Stage 2 started at 5 am at Tres Ríos and culminated in the Catie in Turrialba, with an altimetry of 2775 meters of ascent and a descent of 3454 meters.

The last stage, la 3, has a 60 km flat terrain between Siquirres and Playa Bonita de Limon, in the Caribbean of Costa Rica. In total, the route consisted of 226 km of route, 6764 meters of accumulated ascent and 6701 meters of descent.

Other countries that were also represented in la Ruta de los Conquistadores Costa Rica 2018 were Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Singapore.

But, what does this competition consists of? Perhaps the most passionate of cycling know it well, but we must tell you a bit about what this famous international race that was born in Costa Rica.

Every year’s Ruta is unique, the organisation always changes the course and the finish lines, however the kilometers, the ascent and descent are always very similar.

The story of this exciting career goes back to 1993 when Roman Urbina, an elite Costa Rica athlete, read of three Spanish conquerors, Perafán de Rivera, Juan de Cavallón, and Juan Vásquez de Coronado, who in the 1560’s began a 20-year journey through the beautiful, uncertain and little explored Costa Rica mountains.

Then, Urbina decided to retrace his long trek but on his mountain bike. He was captivated by the history of the exploration made by those Spanish men, and it was in 1993 when Roman and 17 other companions started their journey on the shore of the Pacific and began their own exploration on bike through and around the lush rain forests, amazing mountain ranges, impressive volcanoes and fresh rivers.

At the end of his adventure, Urbina was determined that such a trip had to be turned into an annual epic event, he created La Ruta de los Conquistadores.

For the first 12 years, the first-place race medal was won by Costa Ricans, who perhaps had the advantage of knowing very well the tricky mountains of the country.

That streak was broken in November of 2005 when one of the world’s most renowned racers, the Swiss Thomas Frischknecht, became the first international mountain biker to take the first place.

One year later, in 2006, the winner was the Colombian rider Leonardo Páez, followed in 2010 by Ben Sonntag from Germany, and Todd Wells from USA one year later. Just for the record, the Costa Rican cyclist Federico “Lico” Ramírez, has won La Ruta five times, and he was compiting again this year.

Every year, hundreds of the very best mountain bikers and endurance athletes from around the world come to the country to test themselves in this tough journey of distance, not easy geography, climate variations and, also, culture.

La Ruta is Costa Rica’s premier mountain bike race and it is well-known as one of the most difficult athletic and endurance events on the planet. La Ruta is the “grandfather” that created and inspired this worldwide genre of multi-day mountain bike stages, and also it is still the most loved, feared, and respected race among bikers.

Nowadays, La Ruta de los Conquistadores is the only bike race that traverses the American continent mass from coast to coast from Pacific coast to the Atlantic. As we mentioned before, the 161-mile route crosses 5 mountain ranges climbing a cumulative of 29,000 feet.

But this Costa Rica adventure is one that you cannot miss if you are an adventure traveler and a nature lover, as we assure you that this competition will take your breath away –and we are not talking about the physical effort-…

The race is developed in one of the most biodiverse and amazing places on earth. Not for nothing Costa Rica has been called “the most biodiverse place on the planet” by National Geographic as this small piece of land hosts the 5% of the Earth’s species of flora and fauna onto just 0.01% of the planet’s land mass.

Participants can expect to experience at least 9 of the Costa Rica weather microclimates, as well as every imaginable riding surface: gravel, hard-packed dirt, rivers, pavement, thigh-deep mud, sand, volcano ash, tiny bridges, among others.

La Ruta is a test of everything: riding skills, physical endurance condition, mental strength, and of course, equipment durability. As Mr. Urbina always says, “it is more than just a race. It is a personal growth experience.” The journey is so tough that you may even learn something new about yourself when racing against the difficult conditions.

The cyclists must focus on the unforgettable experiences they are living while competing; for example, the exotic landscapes of the country, the natural experiences like traversing a river with your bike, the scenic memories, and the people’s support and friendliness.

Lance Armstrong the prestigious guest of this year’s edition
Lance Armstrong was the special guest at the 26th edition of La Ruta de los Conquistadores. The retired road-racing star will participate in this year’s competition.

The popular American cyclist who won the Tour de France in seven consecutive occasions, accepted the challenge of competing in what is considered to be the toughest cycling race in the world. Armstrong will take the opportunity to make a documentary about his journey and trip in Costa Rica.

Due to an Anti-Doping scandal, Armstrong was banned for life from sanctioned cycling events but is able to race at non-sanctioned events like La Ruta de los Conquistadores. In this case, Armstrong has any expectation he will win. The 47-year-old has admitted that he is no longer in peak cycling shape.

“They’ve got some of the best mountain bikers in the world now, and the locals – the domestic guys from Costa Rica – are insane,” […] “they know the trails”, Armstrong said. ‘Pura Vida’ -That’s what they say down there. They have monkeys everywhere. They have alligators. I’m serious, they have alligators. I’ve seen pictures. […] I fear more the mosquitoes. I hate mosquitoes.” Those were the previous declarations of the athlete, before arriving in Costa Rica.

Lance landed in the country on Wednesday, October 31 and from that day he began to record the documentary himself, in collaboration with the production company Vlakyr Productions.

“These images of Lance in our country will serve us a lot in the future, he comes with this specialized group to follow him in his adventure, as he himself will record his journey,” said Román Urbina, creator and founder of La Ruta.

In addition to Armstrong will come Ezra Shaw, photographer of the world-renowned photo agency Getty Images. The presence of prestigious media in the country due to La Vuelta is nothing new. In the past, there have already been New York Times, ESPN, CBS, ABC and several specialized magazines from different parts of the world.

“Very happy to have the best cycling exponent in history, I consider it an honor to have someone like him in Costa Rica.” Although he had a controversy in his career, in La Ruta we are saying that there are second chances and this is a competition of personal growth and I’m sure Lance will do it after this event,” said Roman Urbina the creator and founder of the competition.

The cyclist suffered during the first day of the race and arrived with a delay of 3 hours and a little more. The second day he faced the route with a smile and with better attitude than the previous day, because during Stage 1 the humidity, altitude and fatigue played a trick on him.

The Spaniard and current champion, Josep Betalú, was the great winner of the first stage, achieving a difference of 12 minutes with 13 seconds to the Ramón Carlos Arias and 19 minutes with 28 seconds to the Carthaginian Federico ‘Lico’ Ramírez.

Armstrong finished the race in the 82nd position between men and women (76 in men). It closed with a time of 8:31:34, with a difference of 3:34:17 compared to Betalú who achieved a time of 4:57:16.

In women, the winner of the day was the American Larissa Fitchett who reached the finish line at La Finca El Rodeo in Ciudad Colón with a time of 7:04:39, bringing a difference of 29 minutes to the Costa Rican Eunice Rojas.

The winner of the second day was the national Carlos Arias of the Pasión MX team, who completed the 80 kilometers with a time of 3 hours, 31 minutes and 45 seconds. The second position went to the Spanish and leader José Betalu, who joined Arias to the finish line.

Unlike the first day, the American Lance Armstrong did not suffer so much during stage 2. Lance finished in position 22, with a delay of 50 minutes compared to the winner of the stage.

The third and final day was this Saturday, November 3, in which the Spaniard Josep Betalú was crowned the winner of the 2018 edition of the race. On the podium he was followed by Canadian Josiah Middaugh at 31:32 and Federico Ramírez at 33:13.

In the female branch, the winner was the Costa Rican Eunice Rojas with 15:20:36, followed by the also national Katherine Herrera at 12:29.

For Armstrong, La Ruta is a unique experience and he claims to have prepared very well to come because he had heard many incredible stories that happened to other people.

Also, he assures that the best thing that he takes with him is the experience with the people of Costa Rica, whom he qualifies as wonderful, and he is grateful to the staff of La Ruta, with the competitors, the staff of the hotels and the spectators in general.

On the first day, the former cyclist suffered during the race due to the harsh conditions and said: “This has been the most difficult day of my life, the first day has been the most difficult thing I have experienced on my bike. I was not prepared for that, I did not expect it, I had some hydration and nutrition problems, and it was a long and hard day that I will never forget. “

Regarding the support during the race, Armstrong said that the fact that most of the time is climbing due to the steep terrain makes the competitors go very slowly and makes it easier for people to walk or run next to the cyclists, which qualifies as unique to any race in the world.

While Armstrong is grateful for the experience, he recognizes that he will return only for some Costa Rica vacations, so apparently the American does not plan to compete again in the middle of the harsh mountains of the country.

For cycling lovers and for Costa Rica in general it was a pleasure to have him as a special guest of this edition of La Ruta de los Conquistadores.

La Ruta de los Conquistadores has partnered with the Association Fight Against Childhood Cancer (ALCCI) since 2012 and expects Armstrong’s participation to increase their contribution this year.

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