La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the four-day mountain bike stage race which begins on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica on Wednesday, finds itself embroiled in a war of words with the Costa Rican cycling federation - Federación Costarricense de Ciclismo (FECOCI) - as riders arrive for the start of the 17th edition of the self-billed "hardest mountain bike race" in the world.
FECOCI issued a statement last night that the federation had revoked its sanction of the event. The cause is an announcement by race organizer, Román Urbina, that the federation fees to sanction events such as La Ruta are excessive, and that, therefore the race would be held without the backing [sanction] of the federation.
The federation has retaliated by announcing that the event is therefore being held without any UCI or national federation sanction, and that licence holders would therefore be subject to fines [50-100 Swiss Francs] and suspensions [one month]. There is no clear word on whether these sanctions will only be applied to local licence holders, or foreign riders as well.
According to La Ruta spokesperson J. Andrés Vargas, "There is no real need for a sanction, this is an adventure race. The issue is the fee the federation is charging to the organizer. La Ruta is the oldest mountain bike stage race [in Costa Rica], so it is in the spotlight."
Vargas goes on to say, "There is no reason for [La Ruta] to give a high percentage fee [he mentioned as high as 10 percent] to the federation; they give no insurance, no value to the organizer. [La Ruta] has decided to invest these funds in the development of a richer mountain biking experience for all participants, as well as providing the tools for teams and organizations from all over the world to aid in the establishment of projects in Costa Rica and other Latin American countries."
Vargas also says that the federation is contacting local media, telling them that La Ruta will not take place but, "La Ruta is going on; we're ready to put on a good race. There are 225 riders from 19 countries here, ready to roll tomorrow."
Among the top riders in attendance are former road pro Roberto Heras (Spain), back for his second La Ruta, and American pros Jeremiah Bishop and Tinker Juarez.
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