Posted by Miles Arbour
I’m Christopher Lapcevic, from San Jose, Costa Rica. I’ve been into bikepacking for the last five years, completing races like the Italy Divide, Tour Divide, and Silk Road Mountain Race. I’ve had the opportunity to do the races along with my father, Mike. We absolutely love it! Cycling in these events is something we feel passionate about and lucky to be part of.
A couple of months ago, a friend told us about the Mule Trail Race. It was the first time we heard someone talking about bikepacking in Costa Rica. This one was a good race to ride separately, a good face off between father and son to the finish line. We thought, “Piece of cake! 630km, short race, maybe three or four days, no big deal. Not much planning to do since we know the country well. After finishing the Silk Road Mountain Race five months ago, how hard can this one be?”
The race starts in the South Pacific side of the country, in the little town of Canas Gordas, at the border with Panama. The route covers 630km with over 11,000m of ascent, following dirt roads, singletrack, white sandy beaches, and through small towns. At night, we had an impressive moon shining on the path almost to the point that lights and headlamps were not needed. Riders got going on Wednesday, January 8th, at 8:00 AM, most of us not knowing how hard it would be.
The first 180km were the toughest of the race. With 5,900m of ascent and high temperatures up to 40°C, riders were forced to take it slow, stopping in towns for cold drinks, and hiding from the bright sun was necessary to survive the first hours. Some riders couldn’t cope with the brutal start and suffered from dehydration and heat stroke. After two days of pedaling in these conditions, my father pulled out. This would be the first time his dot wouldn’t make it to the finish line.
The second part of the race started in Dominical, with 15km on the beach, crossing several rivers, followed by 165km traveling on palm plantations along the Pacific coast and climbing three main passes with a total ascent of 3,500m. Before crossing the Turrubares River and getting to the city of Orotina, we had to conquer the famous singletrack of Carara National Park, a known birding and wildlife destination with a big diversity of flora and fauna, where typical species of dry and humid forests converge.
The last section is 260km from Orotina along the coast to Puntarenas, up north to the town of Bagaces and finishing in the small community of Santa Elena, bordering with Nicaragua. The last part has a lot less climbing, giving you a chance to enjoy the scenery while cycling along old railway tracks close to the coast: the endless Guanacaste lowlands and the windy passes through the Miravalles and Rincon de la Vieja Volcanos. I finished at 8:53 AM on Sunday, January 12th, in just over four days.
The Mule Trail was a big surprise for us. What we thought would be a walk in the park turned out to be as challenging as any of the other events we have done. Jeff (Race Director) was able to trace a route that combined all the ingredients for a true bikepacking race. The GPX track was exact, offered a great combination of cycling terrain, I never felt in danger, and it pushed me, as usual, to my physical and mental limits. I had to dig deep on moments where I was down, but the journey gave me the rush and happiness that you only get by doing this craziness.
Here are the top finishers in each distance:
1. Mario Meneses: 3 days, 5 hours and 15 minutes
2. Warner Garcia: 3 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes
3. Christopher Lapcevic: 4 days, 57 minutes
Ligia Madrigal and Ivannia Fonseca: 2 days, 10 hours, 1 minute
Only two riders doing this distance and decided to ride it together
1. Alejandro Rivera: 1 day, 8 hours, 6 minutes
2. Esteban Rojas: 1 day, 10 hours, 1 minute
3. Federico Escalante: 1 day, 10 hours, 2 minutes
Details on next year’s Mule Trail are already available, with a grand depart on January 26th, 2021. Check out the event listing for more info.