It’s just finished, the Adventure Racing World Championships/Series in Tasmania, Australia. Bycroft’s assurance that “the course will be very traditional, epic legs in true wilderness, as much an expedition as a race” was the absolute truth. He also promised that “it would be an experience like no other” and that will certainly be supported by the competitors. There were a few little extras thrown in as there so often is in adventure racing, this time it was clay pidgeon shooting. A trek through the snake infested hills around the Heemskirk range added some extra spice to the race too.
79 teams from all over the world, four hundred racers and 23 nationalities started the 730 km race which would include the disciplines of mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, swimming, technical rope work and orienteering. This was a true, expedition-style course through genuine wilderness conditions. Four-person teams (generally male and female) navigated the course using map, compass and landmarks via a series of control point (CPs).
Adventure racing can be a brutal sport. For 6 days, the teams push themselves constantly, sleeping only when the body can no longer function properly. It takes sheer grit and determination to get to the end of the course and as high up in the rankings as possible.
In fact, this race witnessed probably one of the most exciting sprints to the finish ever. A closely fought race between the English team, Adidas TERREX, and the Swedish team, AXA Sports kept everyone spellbound until the very last second.
The final leg of the race was a cycling stage and the Swedes were the faster biking team. They took the lead and the Brits decided to let them go ahead, but to hang in close behind them, letting them do most of the work. Their plan was that when they hit the velodrome they would make their move, and to the astonishment of the the Swedish team, this is exactly what they did. With a lap to go, the Brits pushed hard, passing the bulk of the AXA team and isolating the captain, Michael Lindnord, at the front, but passed him on the finish line. 4th place was seized by about 2 bike lengths or just one little tiny second! Very exciting and an incredible achievement after 6 days of hard racing and very little sleep.
Tatum Prins, part of the South African Merrell Adventure Addicts Team, summed it up perfectly, “Wow what a race … and a race it was! From start to finish we were constantly being chased, or chasing, with just minutes apart, hard and fast. It was cold; it was challenging; it was constantly unforgiving and in our faces. “To me, the race showcased Tasmania from the inside out”, added Hanno Smit, also with the Merrell team. “It’s a remarkably beautiful place, which at times made me feel like I was travelling in a kind of Lah-Lah Land. There was extreme wet and cold, and the competition was fierce and intense.”
Merrell Adventure Addicts were placed 7th. “We raced as hard as we could and take satisfaction from the fact that we left nothing out on the course. We are content with our seventh place finish and take heart from the fact that we were in the mix with the top teams”, says captain and navigator, Graham Bird.
4 Swedish teams made into the top 6 finishers, which is an astonishing result from such a small country. The winners of the whole event were Thule Adventure Team. The members of this team are half Swedish and half French and they are the most recently formed of the 4 Swedish teams and were sponsored by a Swedish company. Second placed were team Silva, also sponsored by a Swedish company. They had one New Zealander on the team (Aaron Prince), who lives in Sweden. 4th place was UK’s Adidas TERREX, 5th was AXA Sports, sponsored by a Swedish sports centre. They included one US racer and one Australian who was a late replacement. And finally 6th on the podium was FJS, which was originally a team from the Swedish Army’s Parachute Ranger training school in Karlsborg. All 4 are Swedish.
Bjorn Rydvall of Team Silva, trying to explain the Swedish success, magnanimously suggested that “maybe the climate suits us. We are used to the cold and wet…” and, he added modestly “Some teams I expected to do well underperformed or had injury problems, so perhaps it was a coincidence that we happened to do so well this year.”
Adventure Racing World Championships 2012 are going to be held in my neck of the woods next year! Raid in France has been chosen by the ARWS organization to host the Adventure Race World Championship (ARWC). The 2012 race is scheduled from the 15th to the 22nd of September. The event will take place in the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur, in the south-east region of France. Geoff Hunt, AR World Series Director, said “I’m sure the 2012 Adventure Race World Championship will be a huge success and follow on the expedition style success that the Raid in France has become known for.”
Hey-ho … can’t wait. And well done to everyone in the ARWS Tasmania.
feature photo courtesy of www.thuleadventureteam.com