Through the Costa Rican Jungle with Ludo May2. March 2017, San José, Costa Rica — Ludo May — BMC Ride Crew
Costa Rica: a dream destination for many bikers, especially Europeans who quickly get tired of the long winter. Every time I heard about Costa Rica I imagined an exotic place with jungle and hundreds of hidden trails. A few months ago, Paulo, one of the Trans Costa Rica organizers, who I befriended on one of his trips to Switzerland – invited me to take part in the inaugural Trans RC, the first Enduro race ever held in Costa Rica. There wasn’t much to think about! It was my chance to discover this famous little Central American country.
Discovering a new country, riding its best trails and sharing the experience with other passionate bikers, can it get any better?
After a few days of getting my bike and my bag ready, and a couple of stops between Geneva and San José, I was finally there, on the other side of the Atlantic, and ready to discover a new place. The adventure started a bit earlier than expected after I met René, a crazy bearded man, on the plane. He was also going to Costa Rica for the race and had no plans for the few days ahead of the race so we decided to go and explore what it had to offer together. I had planned to spend those couple of days chilling at the beach and getting used to the heat and get rid of the jetlag. René joined me and we became beach bum buddies pretty quickly, spending our time surfing, hiking through the jungle, looking for mysterious animals, eating juicy fruits and drinking coconut juice! The perfect appetizer for the race. PURA VIDA!
After two easy days, it was time to head back to San José, get into race mode and meet other adventurers on two wheels. On the way, we stopped quickly to salute the crocs.
All of the riders gathered at a hotel in San José and spent a night there before boarding the race shuttle for the final destination: la Providencia. The drive took a few hours but it definitely wasn’t boring. We drove through a national park on a small road bordered by impressive trees - they must have been something like 30 meters high – and we eventually got to the race camp, lost somewhere in the middle of the jungle. Wow!
Located in the middle of nature, with only a few houses in the area, the camp has a very special and incredible atmosphere – it's basically some tents overlooking the jungle. It’s a total escape. I have rarely if ever, experienced such remoteness; it felt great!
But there was no time to wander around. As soon as we arrived, we started unpacking and building our bikes to tackle the race which started with a short prologue. As usual, the first stage of the season would act as a test and rarely goes as expected. For my part, I had mixed feelings; I felt slow and a bit lost, had too many interfering ideas going through my head but eventually took a positive second place. Promising.
We kicked off the second day with a pretty physically demanding stage. The next two were absolute magic; beautiful trails with flow and lots of turns - just the way we like them to be. Riding there doesn’t compare with any other places I rode; that’s the beauty of my job! I ended up the day just 3” behind local rider Alvaro and I was already looking forward to the next day.
Back to the camp. I really enjoyed the atmosphere there, people were relaxed (like everywhere else in Costa Rica actually) and the feeling of being lost is hard to describe. Spending time there and talking to the other riders is a really valuable experience. Thanks Life!
Three stages were the highlights of the menu for day three. The access roads were pretty steep and we were all happy to have a shuttle service. All three stages were physically demanding and it wasn’t easy for me to manage 10min efforts so early in the season. On top of that, the stages were at between 2’000 and 3’000m altitude which made the efforts even harder. The first stage was very technical and didn’t flow much. I had the feeling I was struggling but it must have been the case for everyone else since I took the stage win. The second and third stages were the same (one stage ridden twice). I started feeling better and ended up the day with a 7’’ advantage on the fastest Costa Rican rider. Times were very tight and we’d have to wait for the last day to know the winner. Despite the relatively low altitude meters covered by bike, we were all cooked at the end of each day.
Funny little story of the day: I only discovered on the third day that I was riding with two hard drives in my backpacks! I took them with me for the flight and totally forgot to take them out of my bag before the race. We all had a good laugh when we actually understood why my backpack was so heavy...
The fourth and last day of racing. A shuttle was waiting for us but didn’t take us all the way to the start of the stage. We rode uphill for 35 minutes before going for a long (14 minutes) and very physical stage. The good news was that it was an incredible stage to ride and that we had to ride it twice. My first run was smooth and fast but I was forced to dig deep so I decided to ride safe for the second run to make sure I ended the race in one piece.
The terrain and the conditions were really hard on us and we were all happy to cross the finish line on day four. As always, the atmosphere at the camp was really cool and I was super happy to hear that I took the overall win with a 30’’ margin.
Trans CR is definitely worth it. The race format isn’t as physically challenging as the Trans Provence for example but all of the stages are at high altitude so the shuttle service was much appreciated! All trails were built specifically for the event and I’d like to pay huge compliments to the organizers and especially to Paulo and Jay who did an incredible job to make our visit worthwhile.
The memories of my first Trans Costa Rica will stick, I hope to be back next year to race for another win. With that, I am off now for a few more days of trail exploring on the island and a bit of sightseeing before heading back to Europe for the rest of the season.