Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where the Ruta Meets the Road - even if it's underwater

Just back from Costa Rica where much to my surprise - and shock - I saw road cyclists. Yip there they were, all kitted up, clad in full team colors and logos. Mixed teams were out for a training ride as I passed through the capitol San Jose - or should I say, survived my way back to San Jose. After a week of catastrophic flooding, washed out towns, mudslides, death, and major highways that literally sunk/disappeared I could only smile in disbelief at young pros hitting the roads for a little spin.

Then that evening the tv blared in Spanish and flashed images of road cyclists struggling and in triumph - film of last year's Vuelta a Costa Rica. Yes, a UCI 2.2 rated event. The next day as I dug for a bit more info all I could dredge from the muddy waters of local Tico sports was the upcoming "La Ruta de los Conquistadores".

La Ruta makes the Vuelta almost seem sane - even in this flood drowned year. The Ruta is 18 years young and already it is infamously "hot, long, muddy and steep, and includes significant hike-a-bike sections and railroad bridges."
In a rare note of possible concession race officials have made a huge nod to the weather saying they may have to consider route alterations - well, considering 30+ Costa Ricans died last week just up the road from where I and my friends were trapped in a hotel because all the roads and bridges were damaged with five days of monsoonal rain that included a 24 hour stretch of 16.3 inches!! Maybe it's just me, but ya know a route concession or two might be wise.

As for the Vuelta, it races in December when life on the roads of Costa Rica should return to their normal chaotic self. Although this year it may look more like the La Ruta route with all the mud and disaster. I was told that the race is the best time to road ride Tico-land. Since the race features a rolling closure for the young pros - you just tuck in behind the peleton support vehicles and presto, you ride one of the loveliest landscapes in the tropics. One thing, just don't get dropped - the traffic will be waiting like hammerhead sharks with bated breath!