Pros head to La Ruta de los Conquistadores

With one week to go, the countdown is on to the start of La Ruta de los Conquistadores, a four-day mountain bike stage race crossing Costa Rica from November 17 to 20, 2010.

In the women's race, multi-time former winner Louise Kobin is expected to battle fellow American and Leadville 100 winner Rebecca Rusch.

The men's field includes local favourites and past winners Manuel Prado and Federico Ramirez. Americans Sam Schultz, Blake Harlan, Jason Sager, last year's runner-up Alex Grant and Thomas Turner are making the trip as is German Ben Sonntag.

Schultz will be racing his first La Ruta while Sonntag will be looking to improve on his eighth place finish of last year. Portugal will be represented by Luis Leão Pinto and Spain by Ismael Ventura.

The long-running La Ruta is famous for its gruelling courses which push racers to the limits of their endurance.

"They call it an adventure race for a reason. This race will test your mind, body, and spirit. Not everyone finishes, but those who do, have much to be proud of," said Rusch.

Lance Armstrong's long-time coach Chris Carmichael will also be participating in the event.

Since its first running 18 years ago, La Ruta has been growing popularity and world recognition. The Costa Rican Tourism bureau officially declared the event a tourist attraction. The race was developed by promoter Roman Urbina and it crosses the central American nation from the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean Coast, passing through rain forests, active volcanoes, mountain ranges, rivers and native communities en route.

After serious flooding affected Costa Rica last week - causing mudslides and closing roads - organisers have been checking the course to see if any route modifications will be necessary.

The race is famously hot, long, muddy and steep, and includes significant hike-a-bike sections and railroad bridges.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the race.

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