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Photo Gallery: On the eve of La Ruta de los Conquistadores

On the eve of the 2011 La Ruta de los Conquistadores mountain bike stage race in Costa Rica, racers from 23 countries trickled into Jaco, the town hosting the start of stage 1 which will kick off at 6:00 am on Wednesday morning.

The race is notoriously difficult - in terms of length and ruggedness of terrain - and race founder Roman Urbina reminded racers of what is to come.

"This is an adventure," he said. "It's the real thing. We can't stop the country from running. You never know what you're going to see out there."

Chilling out beachside for the riders' meeting, it was hard to think of what toils were to come, but Urbina gave some advice. "The bottom line is 'don't be scared'. Have fun."

The route will be similar to what is was in 2010 except about 4km of walking through the Carara National Park have been cut out. That may save riders as much as one hour of slogging through a notoriously tough section.

Check out this photo gallery from the eve of the race.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.