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Life Style Feature – Peloton in Paradise: A Bike Ride Around Lake Arenal

Life Style Feature – Peloton in Paradise: A Bike Ride Around Lake Arenal

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One of Costa Rica’s biggest cycling events — a two-day ride around Lake Arenal from Tilarán to La Fortuna and back — takes place March 10 and 11.

The Bicycle Ride Around Lake Arenal, which started in 1991, is expected to draw some 4,000 participants from every corner of Costa Rica and from as far away as Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

The noncompetitive event welcomes riders of all people all ages, genders and athletic levels, and it’s designed for people to enjoy a workout in a beautiful natural setting, while discovering the hospitality and tranquility of the Arenal region.

“What motivates me to participate is in part just wanting to go for a ride and in part a desire to compete,” said Erick Rodríguez Solís, who has done the ride four or five times. “Also the atmosphere of these events is very nice, very happy and festive.”

Rodríguez said he started cycling at age 24 for health reasons because he was too fat. He lost 25 kilos in six months.

“Later I kept raising my game as an athlete, and I started training with really good people from my town.” He ended up competing in such hardcore events as the 223km Ruta de los Conquistadores, from Jacó to Limón.

He says the ride around Arenal Lake is a recreational event, not a competitive one, so it attracts all kinds. For competitive events, he says he trains at least two hours a day from Tuesday to Friday, four to five hours on Saturday and Saturday, and takes Mondays off. He eats lots of fruit and vegetables and quality carbs, plus low-fat chicken and fish. The week before a race, he says he increases his intake of water and carbs.

“The mental part is very personal,” he said. “At least in my case I don’t stress out, I think of it as just a ride, so that I approach it with all the calm in the world.”

The Arenal event is organized by the Recreational Cycling Association of Tilarán, a nonprofit organization dedicated to having fun in a healthy way. Its mission is to promote sports-related causes and also to support other nonprofit organizations that need financial assistance in this region.

The ride begins in Tilarán, to the west of Lake Arenal, and then skirts the southwestern edge of the lake until arriving in La Fortuna, where the first day’s ride ends. On the second day, cyclists turn around and retrace mostly the same route.

Tilarán resident Abi Acuña says she remembers that since she was a little girl, hundreds and hundreds of cyclists would descend on her hometown on buses with bicycles on the roof.

“The town of Tilarán fills up with thousands of people — athletic families, friends of the town,” she said. “It’s really happy and there’s lots of music. In the morning, around 5:30 a.m., the cyclists take off at the official start of the event on the shores of the Rio Chiquito near the lake. The route is super-hard, full of mud, rocks, uphills and downhills, and people help people they don’t even know — people become family at this event.”

The entire route is 142km both ways, or 88 miles. Registration is 15,000 colones, and you can sign up at www.vueltaallagoarenal.com/mtb/inscripciones

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