Locals and pros take on La Ruta 

There are few adventure bike races as tough as La Ruta de los Conquistadores, which starts on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica and ends on shores overlooking the Caribbean Sea. En route, riders follow dirt roads, paths and rail lines through jungles, ride up and down the side of volcanoes, and generally put everything on the line just to finish and have the opportunity to ride again the next day.

The course is longer for the 15 th annual running of the event, but organizers wanted to remove some sections of the course that were becoming impassible, and have added a fourth stage to spread out the suffering.

The total distance is 357 km, and each stage will take an average rider 10 or more hours to finish. The reason is the climbing — over four days, riders will climb and descend more than 12,000 metres, or 40,000 feet. That’s the equivalent of riding to the top of the Whistler Mountain and back to the village eight times. Add in the heat, the humidity in the jungle stages, and the notorious mud on wet days, and every day is an epic challenge.

The race has become a popular one for Sea to Sky riders looking for a pretense for a vacation in the off-season, and this year is no exception. The race sold out all 400 entries shortly after they went on sale.

Team Whistler will be represented by Mike Charuk, John Wong and Tony Routley. On the women’s side, Fanny Paquette, representing Mountain Biking Magazine and Rocky Mountain, will also be in the race.

From Pemberton, Hillary Harrison will wrap up her season of epic rides with yet another appearance in this race. Harrison grew up in Costa Rica, and has ridden the race multiple times including the past two years. She won La Ruta in 2002.

She has also entered three epic stage races this year, including the B.C. Bike Race, the TransRockies Challenge, and TransPortugal Challenge. She placed first in every event.

Some of the pro riders in the field also have a connection to Whistler.

Andreas Hestler, a part-time Whistler resident, is racing this year, as is Cheakamus Challenge winner Max Plaxton. Kris Sneddon is also riding this year, which should make an interesting race for top Canadian.

The race takes place from Nov. 14 to 17. Updates will be posted online at www.adventurerace.com .

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