La Ruta shakes up organization ahead of 17th edition

Paolo Montoya and overall winner Federico Ramírez

Paolo Montoya and overall winner Federico Ramírez (Image credit: Tour of Japan)

Leading up to the 17th edition, La Ruta de los Conquistadores founder Roman Urbina is getting back to running the show after a major shake-up in the race organization in recent weeks.

The first hint that anything was wrong comes from the message that displays upon visiting the race's website. "Luis Diego Viquez, former race director, has NOTHING to do with LA RUTA DE LOS CONQUISTADORES anymore (commercial, legal or otherwise)..." is the message that automatically pops up upon entering the site and picking the English language option.

"The whole organization is different now," said Urbina to Cyclingnews," except for two of us - a logistics guy who has been with us for 14-15 years and me."

"We've had in-house problems with the people who were helping me - mainly in management," he said. "They've done terrible things - they've caused us grief and monetary loss. So I had to go out and look for better people."

"Even though it's been a good race the past four years, as far as the economics go and dealing with money, it didn't work for us."

Although he founded the race, Urbina had taken a step back from the day-to-day management. "In recent years, I was only on the lead moto and I travelled the world as a sort of PR person. I let the boat go with a different captain, and now I'm motivated to be back in it." Urbina had stepped aside from the helm as he travelled the globe and participated in other stage and epic mountain bike race events. He's hoping his travels and diverse race experience will pay off.

"I hope to pull all my experiences from being a rider and a racer in to make La Ruta better. It's always been a good race, and each year it's improved." He believes it can become better still.

Urbina is aiming to make the race a more customer-friendly event. "Stage one will still be the make it or break it day, but we'll have better hotels, closer to where the race ends. We're also switching over to have the National Red Cross provide support for the race rather than a local, private service. There'll be better food, too."

"We're instituting specific requirements for all staff. Everyone will have to be certified in first aid and be bilingual." The race attracts both Spanish and English-speaking competitors.

The race's roots are in tracing the path of the Spanish Conqueror Juan de Cavallón on his trip in the mountains of Costa Rica. His expedition started at the Pacific Coast and finished on the Caribbean. Given the terrain that makes race so famous, riders face noteworthy hike-a-bike sections - something Urbina does not expect to change.

"Some of the terrain is so rugged that we can't get vehicles in their to support the race - not even ATVs. In those places, we have to use horses."

What makes the race such an adventure is its unpredictability. "Everything happens in real-time. You never know if there will be a landslide or a hurricane that requires a last-minute course change."

Several top endurance racers have already committed to this year's edition of the race, scheduled for November 11-14. Among those are Jeremiah Bishop and Tinker Juarez (MonaVie Cannondale), Nat Ross (Subaru / Gary Fisher), Paolo Montoya (Giant Italia) and some of his yet-to-be identified teammates, Manuel Prado and Max Plaxton (Sho-Air / Specialized), and former Vuelta a Espana winner Roberto Heras. Top Costa Rican adventure racer Ligia Madrigal is committed for the women's race.

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