Blake Harlan is in Costa Rica to race his first-ever La Ruta de los Conquistadores. The Team Jamis racer is wrapping up a full season of racing, including three other mountain bike stage races. He'll start La Ruta on Wednesday morning with over 200 other competitors.
"I've heard so many stories about this race," said the 23-year-old Harlan to Cyclingnews. "I'll try to race hard and come out of each day with a good story."
Harlan had thought he would race the Brasil Ride mountain bike stage race ongoing presently, but after visa problems, the American changed his plans to come to Costa Rica instead for what is his first visit to the Central American nation.
"I've been to Mexico, Belize and Honduras, but I've never been this far south," he said.
Harlan, who is relatively young compared to most mountain bike stage racers, also raced the Trans-Sylvania Epic, the Breck Epic and the BC Bike Race this year.
"I got my pro upgrade, and I was unmotivated to go to the Pro XCTs and get waxed every day," said Harlan of the motives behind his focus on stage racing. "You get a lot more out of these races, too. If you have a bad day, you still have a couple of more days to go. I've learned so much doing stage racing."
In fact, the young rider is still learning the ropes of racing day after day off road and is determined not to repeat previous errors. "I made the same mistake in each of the three stage races this year. I always do something stupid the first day and then pay for it."
He also gave some insight into his La Ruta race strategy which is something along the lines of when in Costa Rica do as the Costa Ricans. Local knowledge of the extremely rugged and usually muddy and steep terrain plays a major role in La Ruta, and among the men, a Costa Rican typically wins.
"I'm hoping to follow a bunch of Costa Ricans," he said. "If they get off their bikes for whatever reason, I'll get off my bike. If they get off the railroad tracks, I will, too. If they duck into the trees, maybe I'll go duck into the trees with them."
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of La Ruta.