If you ride a mountain bike regularly, you’ve probably thought about entering a race at some stage. Well, why not go straight to the top of the tree, up the crazy meter from ‘sounds hard’ to ‘are you freaking mental’. Put your balls reputation on the line and enter one the rides below.
La Ruta Conquistadores – 4 Stages (Costa Rica)
Universally considered to be the most toughest, most brutal mountain bike stage race in the world, this is the numero uno, the big daddy, THE one to try and complete. The race traverses Costa Rica from the Pacific coast to the beaches of its Caribbean shore following an energy sapping, ball breaking, mental meltdown route through the country’s central highlands in a long four-day suffer-fest.
Just to make things harder, the sneaky local support vehicles have been known to shadow the Costa Rican riders while refusing to offer help to international racers. “Such support has even included the provision of secondary bikes for Costa Ricans, who would then take on the climbs on hardtails before being provided with full-suspension bikes for the descents through volcanic scree.” Classic! Where do I sign up?
The organisors offer a more diplomatic view, “We view La Ruta as more than just a race—it is a personal growth journey. It is much more of a bike adventure than it is a race. Yeah, the first 40 or 50 guys up front are killing themselves to stay ahead, but the rest of the field is always here to just enjoy and hopefully to finish.”
Read Travis Underwood’s take on the race: “Last year I got incredibly sick after day 3 and could not start day 4 so tomorrow is new territory for me with only 6000 vert, 78 miles and the infamous 20+ miles of train tracks.
Lastly a nice succint quote from 5x La Ruta veteran Matt Luhn: ”La Ruta kills brain cells”. Probably why he ended up doing it 5 times then.
The Crocodile Trophy – 10 Stages (Australia)
Billed as the World’s Hardest Longest Hottest and Most Adventurous MTB Race In The World. Music to a mountain biker’s ears then. The race covers 1,200km of Australia’s tropical north along a circuitous route between Mareeba and Cape Tribulation. It has been known to include the usual medical emergencies, the not-so-usual raging bushfires and a full-scale search for missing riders.
The field is limited to 100 riders and always well attended by European cyclists for some reason and widely deemed to be tougher than the Tour de France. Past competitors include Cadel Evans. Off you go to enter…
Cape Epic – 8 stages (South Africa)
The Epic, as everyone knows it now, has become a legend in double quick time. It is the sole race that will take place in 2010 which has the classification of hors categorie or HC by UCI. Because of this, the race attracts some of the best mountain bikers from around the world.
From the official press blurb: The Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas takes place every year around the last week of March and the first week of April. The race is held over 8 days and includes a time-trial prologue. The route changes every year, and leads aspiring amateur and professional mountain bikers from around the world through approximately 800 kilometres of the unspoilt nature of the Western Cape and up approximately 16 000m of climbing over some of the most magnificent passes in South Africa.
As a South African biker, I’ve heard first hand of how tough this race can be and it’s been amazing to see the deterioration of some riders from the day they set off to when (and if) they cross the finish line 8 days later. It really is a rollercoaster of emotional and physical ups and downs. I’m on the waiting list for 2011!
We’re not a bright bunch, us bikers.
Iron Bike – 7 stages (Italy)
I struggled to find any real background information on the Iron Bike. Apparently it’s quite a basic race, as in you’ve got rely mostly on yourself, so you might want to hone those mechanical skills before entering. It bills itself as “The Legend” and The World’s Hardest Mountain Bike Raid. Which probably means it’s organisers don’t speak to the organisers of La Ruta, The Epic or the Crocodile Trophy who all say the same thing.
The Iron Bike endurance race takes in some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery and passes through the tough Italian and French Alpine landscapes beginning in the Comune of Entracque and finishing in Sauze d’Oulx, involving a massive 22,000 metres of climbing over its 650km length. It runs across trails, mule tracks and dirt roads and is divided into a prologue and seven stages. Apparently the exact route remains secret until the starting day, when riders receive a road book with the track.
To make things harder, the race is open only to 140 athletes.
BC Bike Race – 7 Stages (Canada)
On it’s website, it says it is “a multi-day mountain bike adventure”. Some entrants might say that’s a little vague. A 6 night, seven day mountain bike adventure from Vancouver to Whistler, the major success of the BC Bike Race is rooted in its awesome amount of flowy, loamy singletrack. As one rider said “It was honestly one of the first times I’ve totally forgotten about the race and just enjoyed the ride. It was just me and a friend bombing through the woods. That’s never happened to me before, so it really says a lot about the course.”
According to the website, with an epic route designed and endorsed by super endurance mountain bike racer, Andreas Hestler, the BC Bike Race is in a class of its own. The lure of riding the best of BC’s world-class mountain bike trails has already attracted a wide range of BC Bike Race competitors, from hardcore weekend warriors to some of the world’s finest mountain bike stage racers.
It also boasts a 96% completion rate, so that’s something positive to hang onto.