So, in an effort to better understand just what the hell Qwadsworth has been up to since winning the NUE series, I got in touch with him for an interview to find out why a person would fly to Central America for the weekend and not bring back a bunch of Coke. The following interview is all true (except for the parts I made up.)
BRC: What's that smell? You're sitting on the shitter aren't you?
Qwadsworth: Of course, this is where I do all of my best interviews.
BRC: Me too.
BRC: So, tell me about La Ruta. And let's start with the basics. Where, exactly, the fuck is Costa Rica? I only just realized this morning that it's not an island off the coast of Florida.
Qwadsworth:How in the Hell am I supposed to know. I'm a land mammal so when you put me on a plane, whisk me away, feed me terrible food, and demand I leave in a semi-linear fashion out the same door I just came in I get pretty confused. When I look on a map it looks really far away though.
BRC:How did this whole thing come together? I mean logistics. You win the NUE title, then what? Does someone just give you a big sack of money and say "you will go to the dagobah system"? Do they book your plane tickets? Do you have the option to just take the money and run?
Qwadsworth:Well, the NUE hardly wins you a big sack of money. I did pretty well in the Hammer Gel department though. Aid Stations arent like a "give a penny take a penny" box at the supermarket and I got mouths to feed! In sincerety Roman and Erika who command the LaRuta Empire (in addition to LaRuta they put on 5 other events in Cr throughout the year) were incredibly accomodating. A week or so before Foold Gold Erika emailed to confirm with the leaders and likely winners if they did win that they would be attending, nearly everybody said "duh." They did book out flights, no option to take the money and run, but I wouldnt have anyways. I have all the Hammer Gels I need.
BRC:What are the event managers like? Ticos? How much English is being spoken at the start/finish/aid stations?
Qwadsworth:ncredible. They were incredible. They make that event happen in a country where almost nothing happens on time or in a fashion to which most gringos are accustomed. The locals treat it like the Tour de France, they are incredible. They are unbelievably supportive of every racer and meet even the tiniest modicum of enthusiasm with explosive excitement. So you can image how they responded to stoked-up me!! Not a lot of Ingles, but stoke knows no language barrier man. #PuraVida!
BRC: OK, this is your first and only warning. But I don't allow hashtags in my conversations. One more outburst like that, and I'll pinch this off, wipe, and move on.
Qwadsworth: Understood. Agreed.
BRC: Back to La Ruta. It's now a UCI race, right? Were you drug tested? Did you see any drug testing occur? If I were to go and be, say, mid-pack in the fatbike category, what are the chances I'd be drug tested? Are they more likely to test me if I look high?
Qwadsworth:While it was a UCI event this year, im pretty sure they gave up. They didnt even have Blue polo shirts, how official could they be?!
BRC:How much walking did you have to do? For the good of all mankind, what does a 6,000 foot climb on a singlespeed do to your feet?
Qwadsworth: Tons. Welcome to the Jungle baby. But it had nothing to do with being on a singlespeed!
BRC:How close did you come to actually being eaten by a reptile?
Qwadsworth:Probably closer than I thought. I seriously did see and hear a lot of things that wanted me for food. They gotta eat too, and these thighs...lets get real..they Dont make Ticos with thighs like this so let me answer your question with a question. If you lived in the land of Tofu and Wheatgerm and Strawberry Shortcake tramped by in her most delicious little outfit would you try and eat her?
BRC:Who the fuck are these people that won? Todd Wells appears to have gotten his clock cleaned by dudes I've never even heard of. Why is that?
Qwadsworth:Theyre the Nairo Quintana of dirt my amigo! These dudes train all kinds of crazy old school too. I got to spend some good time with the front guys and theyre pretty on their game. They dont compete up here or internationally as often for the same reasons we dont compete down there more often. Additionally LaRuta is a sort of different bag of worms. The saying goes "follow the locals." There is definitely a learning curve and a language curve and thats tough to hack. Also I have a sneaking suspicion LaRuta was a good way to get himself and his family down to CR for some vacation time.
BRC: For years, it's been said that the Tico's win La Ruta by cheating. How would local cheating actually happen? Shortcutting? Drugs? Rides in trucks?
Qwadsworth:Im glad you asked. I dont know all the answers mind you so I cant say 100% for sure but I will answer from my experience. The course is super busy with "team cars," buddys on ATVs and motos, and folks who have set up feed zones waaaay outside the 200m of an aid station rule. This said, they arent stingy either. When I was gathering beta for LaRuta I got a strong "Us vs. Them" vibe from a lot of folks. I could see how this attitude would make these illegal feeds frustrating. But I also will say the Ticos were super friendly with me! And a lot of the "illegal" feeds were neutrally given, at least to everybody I talked to. Who knows exactly how it went where Tod Wells was sitting but thats how I saw it.
As far as how would it happen it depends a lot but the course is fully open, folks werent offering me rides but I also didnt ask! The course is fully open and can be tricky to follow. I spent more than a little time going slower than I would normally sort of being diligent to look for arrows. So it would be pretty easy to grab a ride or otherwise blow the course if you knew your way. Some of the locations are pretty damn isolated though! I mean youre riding the road you are because there is no other option. So If cheating happens; and Im sure it has, then its gotta be pretty large scale. I wouldnt consider the feeds cheating though, I found I finished nearly every day well under the budgeted nutrition I brought because folks were handing up cokes, bags of water and fruit, candies, honey packets, all sort of jive calories.
BRC:Volcanic eruptions: tell me about it. Did you get food poisoning?
Qwadsworth:Not this volcano buddy! Regular as the swiss rail here! The cool thing about the water in CR is that for the most part its better than other Central American countries. Its cleaner, the Ticos have their game together. Some folks do get some distress but if youre smart about it its not a problem. Clean your bottle tip off before you put it in your mouth if you just rode through cow shit.Be smart. The Turrialba Volcano did blow its top though! We had to emergency reroute Stage 2 for it. but it added in some singletrack so its all good to me! And with 9k of climbing in less than 30 miles its not like they threw us a softball!
BRC:What were the trails like? Flow trails? Jungle animal tracks? What's the dirt like? Color. Composition. Smell. Taste?
Qwadsworth:Costa Rica doesnt have much in the way of singletrack. The riding is pretty stout back country stuff so why would you go through the trouble to build a goat path when theres a killer dh goat path in uncle Federicos agave farm?!! We did utilize pretty much the only single track in the country on Day 2 and it was too muddy to get a great feel for it. Seemed pretty solid. Dirt, well...sometimes its not dirt at all. chew on that for a while.
BRC: Is Costa Rica a ride destination? As in, is the riding there that is worth the trip? Or is the only reason I'd ever go to race La Ruta?
Qwadsworth:Hard to tell man, LaRuta is definitely a destination event. Its Absolutely the adventure of a lifetime. And its the adventure of a lifetime in a context and scenery that doesn't disappoint. Do I know everything thats there...no. Do I think theres more, yeah, Theres gotta be. And I know the people of Costa Rica are pretty eat up with cycling.
BRC: So, you've kicked a lot of ass this year, mine included. What can I do to feel better about myself when I'm around you?
Qwadsworth: Good question. I recommend you switch your Strava settings to Kilometers instead of miles. That way when you compare yourself to me, it'll look more even.
BRC: What's next for you? You go into the winter and just sit on the couch for a few weeks or what?
Qwadsworth: Well, no. A lot of guys take time off, but obviously I have to get back on the bike right away in order to peak in February for The Pantani. Everything after that is just sort of whatevs.
BRC: What's the likelihood Brian Lewis doesn't feed you your own meaty thighs at the Pantani this year?
BRC: I like those odds. Gonna be a fight, I imagine?
Qwadsworth: Hopefully we're together coming back up Markwood and I can just buy the win. Kids like that will usually take the money and let me solo in on my own.
BRC: Solid plan. Very Italian. Thanks for playing.