Sights set on a La Ruta de los Conquistadores victory

On the way to the airport this morning, I commented to Sammi that I couldn't believe I was headed back to Costa Rica for La Ruta de los Conquistadores already. This is my fifth year racing, and it's become an annual fall event, a pretty memorable one at that.

I can't believe another year has passed, time really flies, especially when I think of everything that's happened in the last year. I keep hoping it will slow down, but everyone I talk to who that has a few more years under their belts than I do, says it's actually the opposite.

Heading to La Ruta is a pretty big undertaking, and since it is so mentally and physically taxing, the memories become almost surreal, but at the same time unforgettable. I guess what I'm getting at is that it's become an annual marker in time for me over the last years.

Last year's La Ruta was significant in that it was my first race with a new team, Sho-Air/Cannondale, as well as the first race for the team in general. Pua Mata and I were honored to debut the new kits and kick things off for a very successful 2013 season for the team. Pua took the women's win, and while I was in the fight, I came up a little short, and netted my third second place finish in four years.

This year, I'm coming in with a slightly different attitude. I need to break that streak, and have to aim high. There's no reason to be conservative and fight for another podium spot, I need to swing big and go for broke. Maybe I don't have the legs on race day, or maybe it just doesn't work out, but I'm not going to come home thinking I held anything back.

With four La Rutas under my belt, I know how hard the race is, as well as how strong the competition is. I also know that I can compete, I've proven that to myself, and with support of Team Sho-Air/Cannondale, I know anything is possible. This has been my best season yet, thanks to the top notch support of the team, as well as the rock solid coaching and training guidance of Adam Pulford and Charmichael Training Systems.

My training is done, everything's packed and prepped, now all that's left for me is to go race. One thing that's certain is that I will enjoy every minute of the trip, I love visiting Costa Rica and catching up with the great friends I've made over the years, and getting a yearly dose of Pura Vida. I'll even enjoy the toughest moments of the race, even though it hurts so much, you really feel alive.

Thanks for reading.

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Alex Grant, 31, is one of America's top endurance mountain bike racers. Sponsored by Cannondale Factory Racing in 2012, Grant juggles racing as a pro with managing an outdoor gear consignment business called Gear Rush, which he co-owns with fellow Utah cyclist and racer Bart Gillepsie. This season, look out for Grant on the podiums at major endurance and stage races. For variety, you may also see him on on the start line of some super Ds, cross countries and short tracks.

In 2011, Grant finished third at the Leadville 100 and eighth at the US cross country national championships while also logging top 10s at the super D and marathon nationals. He finished fifth in the Downieville Classic All Mountain Overall and seventh at La Ruta de los Conquistadores. For the third year in a row, he won the Park City Point 2 Point.

In 2010, Grant made headlines with his second place finish at La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the Breck Epic and the Trans-Sylvania Epic.

When not on his mountain bike, Grant enjoys backcountry skiing, snowboarding and hiking.

Grant is from Richmond, Vermont, and he presently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Follow his 2012 season in this blog on Cyclingnews.