Anyone familiar with Costa Rican sport knows what “La Ruta de los Conquistadores” is, but it was not always like that. “La Ruta” was created in 1993 as an effort to raise awareness about the protection of natural resources, the historical roots of our country and, above all, as a unique sporting event at that time.
The idea was born after Román Urbina crossed the Gulf of Nicoya swimming, in order to raise funds to help the conservation of the leatherback turtles. After the feat, the media began to ask (Román) what was next and he wanted to make a bicycle trip and follow in the footsteps of the Spanish conquerors: Juan de Cavallón, Perafán de Rivera and Juan Vázquez de Coronado, crossing Costa Rica from the Pacific to the Caribbean.
For the first edition, Román invited the toughest and best prepared athletes in Costa Rica at that time: Manuel Quirós, Edgar Soto, Franklin Chavarría. “Those were the original conquerors, but where the news came out around 30 more cyclists joined, it was a boom,” commented Urbina. In addition, in the first edition, 2 women participated, including the renowned journalist and athlete Gina Polini.
Participants of all kinds
Since its first edition, “La Ruta” has had female participation and little by little it has grown as the years go by. The first woman to finish the 3 stages was Natasha González, but only she participated so she was not considered a champion. The first female champion of the route was Shannon Wahlberg, who won for several years and even remained as the representative of the race in the United States. The last time Shannon came to participate was in the last edition, in 2019.
Something very curious is that the youngest participants who have finished “La Ruta” have been two 13-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl, who did the tour together with their parents, and the oldest was 84 years old.
Spartan, an older brother
The MTB Route 2021 is the first to have the presence of Spartan, one of the most recognized sports platforms worldwide. “The arrival occurs because they look for us and ask if there is interest in expanding the brand worldwide. We had already gone to Mexico and when Spartan entered, the process became much easier,” says Román. As he indicates, it was a decision between going on alone or hanging out with these “older brothers” who could give them a little leverage.
The expectation of the organization is to grow until it reaches a large number of similar competitions in all the countries that Spartan has contacts and licenses, until it is the best mountain bike championship on the planet, with the best prizes and the best cyclists.