The La Ruta de Los Conquistadores was held this past week in Costa Rica and it was a banner race for Americans. In the past several years this event has been dominated by the local Costa Ricans and some foreigners from across the pond (that being the Atlantic Ocean). But, this year, US riders took the top spots in the biggest three categories of the four-day, four-stage race.
Manuel Prado of Southern California took the overall win which looked in serious doubt after a major epic on Stage 3. Luckily for Manuel, his teammate Ben Bostrom was there to lend some support and get him to the line to narrowly preserve his overall lead. Speaking of Bostrom, he won the Men's A Master division in fine style. Bostrom is a former AMA Superbike world champion who still competes on the circuit during the late spring, summer and early fall.
The last time I saw Bostrom, he was setting the fastest lap at the 24 Hours of Moab, being the only rider to crack the one-hour barrier on the very technical Moab course. When Ben is twisting his wrist and watching his world go by at 190+mph he is a great representative for the sport of mountain biking.
One of the most impressive performances was turned in by Los Gatos, California resident Louise (Lou) Kobin who won the women's division, erasing a five-minute deficit going into the final stage to win by over 20 minutes. Not only did Kobin beat all the women, she finished an amazing 25th overall meaning she beat over 300 men as well.
The La Ruta de Los Conquistadores is generally regarded as one of the most, if not the most difficult mountain bike races in the world. The route roughly traces the path used centuries ago by the Spanish Conquistadors to cross from the Pacific to Atlantic Ocean. In four days, the race covers 232 miles and climbs an amazing 46,000 feet. Ouch!
There are a lot of 24 hour mountain bike races on the US calendar, but the 24 Hours of Moab is something special. For one, it's Moab. Other than maybe Marin County, California, there is no other location on this planet that is more synonymous with mountain biking than Moab. The Slickrock Trail, and the slickrock in general, is known world-wide and attracts off-road cyclists from around the globe to ride its rough surface up almost impossible steeps and down improbable drops.
Another factor is the quality of riders who participate. As the organizers like to say, the best mountain bike race in Colorado is located in Utah which is the quick way of saying that a large proportion of teams come from the Colorado Front Range and also the Rocky Mountains. But, that isn't to say that other states aren't well represented as well. At the 2009 edition racers came from Utah, Arizona, Colorado, California, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvannia, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, etc, etc, Not to mention Denmark, Norway, Germany. Well, you get the idea.
With such an world renown location the race atttracts a quality field, just about every top North American professional rider has made an appearance in Moab. The 2009 edition was no exception with six time 24 Hour Solo World Champion Chris Eatough, four time 24 Hour Solo World Champion Rebecca Rush and three time 24 Hour Solo National Champion Pua Sawicki just a few of the stars in attendance.
In the men's solo event, Chris Eatough was the heavy pre-race favorite, but a bout of the flu caused him to pull out before the start. That left the door wide open for 2008 Moab winner Josh Tostado to repeat his victory from last year and also pull on the stars and stripes jersey for his first ever National Championship.
Pua Sawicki built a huge lead in the women's solo race, but a mysterious stomach problem forced her to retire in the wee hours of the morning. First-time 24 hour racer Ezster Horanyi, from Boulder, Colorado, took the win and the stars and stripes jersey as well.
While much of the focus of the race is on the solo competitors, over 380 teams in about 20 categories participated. Over 1200 total athletes tackled the slickrock and sand which define the Behind-the-Rocks course. It was a great event for all the participants and their support crews. Yes, the 24 Hours of Moab really is special.