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Back again but with a different attitude

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The outdoor pavillion where race registration and riders' meeting was held.

The outdoor pavillion where race registration and riders' meeting was held. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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View from the hotel room in Jaco.

View from the hotel room in Jaco. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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This La Ruta truck transported racers' bikes to the start.

This La Ruta truck transported racers' bikes to the start. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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A view from the beginning of the La Ruta stage 1 course.

A view from the beginning of the La Ruta stage 1 course. (Image credit: Rebecca Rusch)
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Some arrows are painted on the road at La Ruta to minimize course tampering.

Some arrows are painted on the road at La Ruta to minimize course tampering. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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There is all sorts of tropical vegetation.

There is all sorts of tropical vegetation. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Horses in a pasture along the stage 1 course

Horses in a pasture along the stage 1 course (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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The road is lined with greenery

The road is lined with greenery (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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More course-side flowers

More course-side flowers (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Impatiens blooming in the wild

Impatiens blooming in the wild (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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A horse that escaped its enclosure along stage 1

A horse that escaped its enclosure along stage 1 (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Stage 1 goes through the University for Peace

Stage 1 goes through the University for Peace (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Costa Rican scenery

Costa Rican scenery (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Some leftover storm damage.

Some leftover storm damage. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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It is very green everywhere around San Jose, Costa Rica.

It is very green everywhere around San Jose, Costa Rica. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Last week's storms caused a lot of damage in the form of landslides and deaths.

Last week's storms caused a lot of damage in the form of landslides and deaths. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Flowers along the course

Flowers along the course (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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A view from the La Ruta course.

A view from the La Ruta course. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Stage 1 will end with a road section.

Stage 1 will end with a road section. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Ligia Madrigal and Rebecca Rusch on a pre-ride.

Ligia Madrigal and Rebecca Rusch on a pre-ride. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Federico Escalante has done La Ruta many times, but will be driving the lead moto this time.

Federico Escalante has done La Ruta many times, but will be driving the lead moto this time. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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A coffee bean plantation

A coffee bean plantation (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Passing through landslide territory on a road that's part of the end of stage 1.

Passing through landslide territory on a road that's part of the end of stage 1. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Sam Schultz and Blake Harlan load up their bikes.

Sam Schultz and Blake Harlan load up their bikes. (Image credit: Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor)
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Looking at the Pacific Ocean from the hotel room in Jaco on the day before La Ruta starts.

Looking at the Pacific Ocean from the hotel room in Jaco on the day before La Ruta starts. (Image credit: Rebecca Rusch)
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Recent landslide damage - after being cleared by a bulldozer

Recent landslide damage - after being cleared by a bulldozer (Image credit: Rebecca Rusch)
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This creek shows some of the erosion from recent heavy rains.

This creek shows some of the erosion from recent heavy rains. (Image credit: Rebecca Rusch)

Here I am back four years later at La Ruta. I swore I would never come to this race again, but I'm actually really excited this time. I have a different perspective and a different respect for the race. People have been asking me why I came back. It's two reasons.

The first is that the race organization really wanted to support a top women's field. And I wanted to help in their efforts. I appreciate that they want to give equal recognition to the men and women.

The second reason I came back is to redeem myself. The first time I was taken by surprise and the course had its way with me. I felt that in 2006 I wasn't able to race and was barely able to finish. Now that I know what I'm in for, I'm coming with a much more open attitude and respect for the course and knowing that I'm not necessarily racing against other women. It's kind of me against the course.

So I feel excited instead of nervous and I'm actually looking forward to what the mud will dish out. The reputation of this race is legendary for being super hard and now that I'm ready for that, I feel like I'll have a much better time.

Both the men's and women's fields are really strong, and they've made improvements with increased aid stations and cracking down on outside assistance, and they've worked hard to make it one of the best events in the world. The country has experienced landslides, record-breaking rain and hurricane weather in the past couple of weeks, so the course has been slightly changed, and I expect it will be even more of an adventure than the first time.

In true Costa Rican style, it just started raining tonight.

Tomorrow's stage is 104km. The race director estimated top finishing time at 6.5 hours, so I'm gauging for eight hours. This first stage has a reputation for being the make it or break it stage. It ends a lot of people's races due to mechanicals, dehydration and the sheer difficulty. So I'm treating this first day as a race in itself.