La Ruta is my favorite race of the year. Well maybe it’s not the race that is my favorite part but more going to Costa Rica in November. 2011 was the first year I did the race and every year since I have been trying to replicate my performance from that time. It hasn’t happened yet.
I had a great build up this year heading in but after my performance the previous week at the Cincinnati CX races I knew it was going to be a tall ask. The form wasn’t where it needed to be but with mountain biking you never know what’s going to happen so I was optimistic it was all gonna come together on race day.
Day 1 of La Ruta is the decisive day. There is 10,000 ft of climbing and it’s nearly 5 hours long. That is the day with the most hiking, mud and nearly everything La Ruta is known for. Every year I have done it the winner of Day 1 has also won the overall. The race starts on the beach in Jaco and it’s a pretty easy ride for the first 10 minutes as we head into the Carara National Park. From there it’s straight up hill in the 32/42 for 25 minutes and about 3 minutes into that climb I knew it was going to be a long day. It was I lost nearly 30 minutes. I don’t quite know what happened other then I basically shut down. There is no hiding out there on those climbs.
Day 2 we normally climb the Irazu volcano but since the Turrialba volcano right next to it had been erupting all week they had to alter the stage. Instead of steadily climbing the 6,000 ft up the volcano we rode for about an hour in this awesome single track bike park that was slick as ice because it was raining. That was great for me because I was able to come back to the leaders in the bike park after getting dropped on the steep climbs before. After completing the bike park we climbed the steepest paved roads I have ever seen. I could barely ride them with my 32/42 and if they had been wet I don’t think I would have had enough traction. I gave the leaders more time on those climbs but still managed to roll across the line 3rd and not lose too much time. Getting better at least.
John’s bike shop for Day 2
Day 3 is considered the easiest day. We start around 3,000 ft and finish at the Caribbean in Limon. It is anything but easy as the climbs in the beginning are super steep and after racing flat out for the previous two days they really put the sting in the legs. This is also the day with the infamous railroad track bridges that we have to walk over. I have traditionally lost the lead group in the beginning but caught back on after the descent. This year I was able to almost stay with the leaders for the first 40 KM of climbing which allowed me to attack on the 10 KM descent. I got a small gap on the road descent and opened it up over the next 70 KM of flat into the finish. I never got a time check though so I had no idea if the group was right there or not. The race vehicles are constantly coming up and dropping off. I could see some vehicles like 1 minute behind me at some points but I guess they weren’t for the chase group because I crossed the line with nearly an 8 minute lead. I would have took it much easier to the finish had I kown because I almost passed out from the heat and the effort. Real feel for the beach was like 98 degrees with nearly 100% humidity. It was all worth it though to meet up with Meg and Cooper at the finish after not seeing them for a few weeks.
Stage 3 was my only other stage win at La Ruta then when I won the first day and overall in 2011. I was happy to get a result and then it was onto vacation with the family, John(mechanic) and our Costa Rican family/Specialized distributor Carlos and Co. First we went to Puerto Viajo which is only an hour from Limon right on the beach. We stayed at an amazing place called the Namuwoki. There were only screens for windows, no AC or TV or anything else, it was awesome. The food was amazing and Paola Montoya was our tour guide for a few days.
From there we went back to San Jose for a few days to visit with Carlos and his family some more. There is this amazing hotel called the Bouganvilla that we always stay at near his house. It has some amazing gardens.
From there we left, John and our Costa Rica crew to head for the beaches of Guanacaste. It’s my favorite place in Costa Rica. The people are friendly, the weather is perfect and the scenery is beautiful.