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Costa Ricans continue reign at La Ruta

Costa Rica’s Marvin Campos won the latest edition of La Ruta de Los Conquistadores November 14-16, keeping the host country’s record intact – a Costa Rican has won every edition of the 11-year-old mountain-bike race. Campos staved off an unrelenting field in the three-day, 212-mile epic, including Diego Garavito, a top Columbian rider, and Germany TransAlp champion Karl Platt. Campos completed the grueling coast-to-coast race in 15:43:19,12 minutes ahead of Garavito. Fellow Costa Rican Eddy Perez was third in 16:20:38, with Platt fourth in 16:28:24. The women’s race was an intense

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By Matthew Della Croce, Special to VeloNews

Costa Rica’s Marvin Campos won the latest edition of La Ruta de Los Conquistadores November 14-16, keeping the host country’s record intact – a Costa Rican has won every edition of the 11-year-old mountain-bike race.

Campos staved off an unrelenting field in the three-day, 212-mile epic, including Diego Garavito, a top Columbian rider, and Germany TransAlp champion Karl Platt. Campos completed the grueling coast-to-coast race in 15:43:19,12 minutes ahead of Garavito. Fellow Costa Rican Eddy Perez was third in 16:20:38, with Platt fourth in 16:28:24.

The women’s race was an intense back-and-forth affair between Louise Kobin and Hillary Harrison, which saw Kobin forced to overcome a “self-imposed” 15-minute deficit at the start of day two.

“I was told by race officials that the start was at 8 a.m., only to find the pack had left 15 minutes earlier,” Kobin explained. Top American male Eric Warkentin was in the same plight, and Kobin said the two found themselves “in a sprint, needing to weave through hundreds of riders to try and get to the front of the pack.” Kobin would make up for lost time with a strong finish on the final day, crossing the line in 20:41:28 and beating Harrison by less than four minutes. Warkentin finished 24th overall

La Ruta has long been known as one of the world’s most challenging multi-day mountain bike events. Race founder and organizer Roman Urbina describes the race as “more of an adventure than a typical mountain-bike race. It’s hard to come here and adapt, even for the world-class riders.”

This year’s course took a few new turns that added to the pain. Day one added 8km, and day three was rerouted through miles of ankle-deep mud at the start, followed by a seemingly unending climb over a rutted rocky path.

“This was definitely the most difficult race I have ever competed in and the first day of La Ruta was the most difficult day ever on a bike for me,” said Garavito. “Everything hurts. The mud, the climbing, incredible heat, the steep hiking sections, railroad tracks, the technical steep downhill on day two. It never stops being a challenge.”

Urbina says the greatest obstacle to finishing is Mother Nature, and that proved true in this year’s race – extreme heat forced more than 150 competitors out of the race on day one alone. Temperatures reached 105 degrees, and high humidity was a constant. Of the 350 riders who started La Ruta in the surfing town of Jaco, along the pristine Pacific coast, only 222 would make it to the Atlantic Coast.

“The heat was really difficult,” Platt said. “It was a great race, but the heat was hard for me to overcome. At one point I wanted to give up on the long climb up the volcano, it was such a hard day.”

Last year’s La Ruta was marred by controversy following a wrong turn taken by nearly 100 racers. But Urbina and his staff redeemed themselves this year, running a largely flawless event.