La Ruta de los Conquistadores is a brutal, three-day mountain-bike race in which participants traverse more than 220 kilometers from Jacó Beach to Playa Bonita, Limón.
The race bills itself as “one of the most difficult athletic events on the planet,” and its website highlights reviews from participants who describe the race as a “soul-sappingly hard […] journey across laughably steep inclines.”
The event sends riders through five mountain ranges and almost 30,000 feet of elevation gain. It promises “every imaginable riding surface,” from sand, to thigh-deep mud, to volcanic ash. In 2015, a participant spent 30 hours lost in the Carara Rainforest after a river swept him away.
La Ruta has grown dramatically since Román Urbina first blazed the path in 1993. The race now welcomes hundreds of international riders and has helped create a genre of similar events worldwide.
It has even garnered the attention of cycling’s best-known athlete, Lance Armstrong. The retired road-racing star will participate in this year’s Ruta, the race confirmed to The Tico Times.
“Apparently, this shit is supposed to be terrible — like the hardest three days you could ever imagine,” Armstrong said earlier this year on his “Stages” podcast.
Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005, but he was later stripped of those accomplishments after an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
Armstrong is banned for life from sanctioned cycling events but is able to race at non-sanctioned events like La Ruta.
Not that Armstrong has any expectation he’ll win. Despite his competitive nature, the 47-year-old admits he’s 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,” Armstrong said. “They know the trails.
“[…] ‘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.”
Armstrong also posted a video announcing his participation:
La Ruta has partnered with the Association Fight Against Childhood Cancer (ALCCI) since 2012 and expects Armstrong’s participation to increase their contribution this year.
La Ruta de los Conquistadores will be held Nov. 1-3. The full course map is available here.