Local riders gear up for La Ruta 

Course considered among toughest in the world

While most mountain bikers are getting ready to put their gear away for the winter, four local riders are preparing for a three-day race through the jungles of Costa Rica, from the Pacific to the Caribbean.

The race is considered among the toughest in the world. While La Ruta de los Conquistadores is only three days and mainly follows dirt roads and doubletrack, it’s also 318.4 kilometres long with 9,040 metres (29,700 feet) of climbing and descending. The first day has been described as pure hell with 4,526 metres of climbing over 114.1 km.

Factor in the heat, the humidity, and the fact that some roads turn to sticky clay in the rain (it’s hurricane season and it’s been raining the past seven weeks) and you can see why La Ruta is in the same league as the Trans Alp Challenge and TransRockies.

The four locals taking part in this year’s race, from Nov. 11 to 13, are Duncan Munro from Whistler, Hillary Harrison and Ryan Watts from Pemberton, and Charlotte Klein of Squamish.

Harrison is the only rider who has done the route before, growing up in Costa Rica with her parents. She won the women’s open category one year, and placed second to a friend the next.

She was hoping to be competitive again this year, but reigned in her expectations after being hit by a car while biking a few weeks ago. "After that I mellowed out, and my goal now is just to have fun with it," said Harrison, who also raced in the TransRockies this past August.

"It’s just a cool idea for a race, going from coast to coast like that, and you get to see so much. I saw more of the country than I did when I was living there," she said.

"The first day is the hardest day by far, there’s a lot of hike-a-bike and the climbs go on forever. The second day is a lot shorter, but still has a lot of climbing, but the last day is great, you actually finish right on the beach, on the Caribbean and there are people out there surfing and everyone is in such a great mood."

This year she’s taking her boyfriend Ryan Watts, who has done the Trans Alp Challenge a few times already. He has no idea what to expect, but he’s been told that the first day is pretty tough and to be afraid of the mud.

"I figured I was going to be down there so I might as well do it – it’s not every day you get an opportunity to ride from coast to coast in Coast Rica supported along the way," he said.

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