In 1993, Roman Urbina read of three Spanish Conquistadors, Juan de Cavallón, Perafán de Rivera and Juan Vásquez de Coronado, who in the 1560’s began a 20-year journey through the beautiful and treacherous mountains of Costa Rica.
Their expedition started on the Pacific Coast and finished on the Caribbean Sea.
Urbina, an elite Costa Rican athlete and adventurer known for staging physical challenges to publicize the plight of the country’s endangered wildlife, decided to retrace their long trek on his mountain bike.
Captivated by the history of the Spanish Explorers, in 1993 Roman and 17 other latter-day Conquistadores on wheels met on the shore of the Pacific and began their own quest through and around the lavish rain forests, majestic volcanoes, spectacular mountain ranges and roaring rivers.
When it was done, Roman emerged more convinced than ever that hard challenges can engender truth, understanding, and self-knowledge that can push anyone to greatness. Determined that such a trip had to be turned into an annual epic event, he created La Ruta.
For the first 12 years, the first-place race medal was captured by Costa Rican riders, all born and bred amidst the relentless mountains that cause some to label the country the ‘Switzerland” of Central America.
Appropriately, that streak was broken in November of 2005 when the great Swiss star Thomas Frischknecht, one of the world's most renowned racers, became the first international mountain biker to take the crown.
In 2006, the winner was Colombian Leonardo Páez, followed in 2010 by German rider Ben Sonntag and Todd Wells from USA in 2011.
They all have a ways to go to match the record of Costa Rica’s Federico Ramírez, who has won La Ruta five times.