Whistler riders take on La Ruta 

click to enlarge Tony Routley
  • Tony Routley

Three Whistler riders will be in the field when the annual La Ruta de los Conquistadores mountain bike stage race gets underway on Nov. 12 at Jaco, on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.

The race ends on Nov. 15 at Bonita Beach on the Caribbean Coast after 376 km of hard riding up and down volcanoes and through the rainforests on a mix of roads, trails, rail beds and other terrain.

Tony Routley will be riding La Ruta for a second time after placing second in his age category last year. Racing for the first time are Mike Charuk, who has been training in Costa Rica for the last few weeks while taking Spanish lessons, and Dr. Cathy Zeglinski.

From start to finish the course has close to 12,000 vertical metres of climbing, with over a third of the climbing on the very first day. The high point on the third day is over 3,000 metres, and it can be cold and wet. Depending on the weather — it’s the rainy season — temperatures at lower altitudes can also be as hot as 40 Celsius and humid.

Routley’s goal is to win his age category, and if all goes well to place in the top-20 overall.

“The whole reason I’m going back is that I got sick in last year’s race and was second, so it’s unfinished business for me,” he said. “Even when I was racing at the Test of Metal, Cheakamus Challenge and any of the races around here I was looking at my age category, as well as the other age categories. I want to beat the 40 year olds or 30 year olds if I can, and I want to be in the top-20 at La Ruta — although looking at the field that’s going to be pretty tough.”

Routley estimates that he has been riding his bike up to 18 hours a week to train for La Ruta, and he hasn’t taken a break from riding since the start of the season. Lately he’s been wearing extra layers to simulate heat, but is more concerned with the cold at higher altitudes.

“Last year I didn’t find it was that crazy-hot, somewhere in the 27 to 30 degree range, but there were also days when you’re climbing forever and it gets quite cold with the rain,” he said. “We were lucky to have one day without rain last year, but for the next two days it rained pretty steady — hard enough that it hurt, getting pelted in the face with raindrops.”

Routley was also tipped off about Costa Rica’s infamous clay, and last year chose tires that were made to shed mud and have a low-profile tread pattern that is good on the road sections.

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