All eyes will be on the Patagonia Adventure Race that begins today. Adventure racing had a difficult year last year as the economic crisis that hit the world made sponsorship difficult to find, but this year things are looking better and the season is getting off to a good start with the wildest of all the races starting any minute.
The Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race (jcarterhatch) was formally opened last night in a spectacular ceremony that seemed a world away from the wilderness of Patagonia. The elite team Helly Hansen-Prunesco returned the winner’s trophy at the ceremony. All eyes will be watching them this year…
56 competitors from 14 international teams gathered with the attending media to see race organizer Stjepan Pavicic unveil his carefully planned route for the 2010 race.
This will be one of the toughest tests in the race’s history – with the course traveling almost the length of Chilean Tierra del Fuego before heading south beyond the world’s most southerly community on the Isla Navarino. There are two major mountain bike sections and more than 200km of trekking this year through unpredictable peat bog.
The bog, or Turba as it is known in Spanish, will take some getting used to for the challengers. It often looks solid, but it absorbs so much water it can suck you in to your waist in an instant.
Chris Lomas, of Team Fast and Light, summed up the fears for many of the racers: “My biggest fear is getting lost. This place is so vast. Anywhere in the UK, and most places in Europe, you can get lost, but if you keep going, you’ll hit civilization after a day or two of walking. Out there (Patagonia), you can go for weeks without seeing anyone. It is a true wilderness.”
Trekking is historically the most challenging – and spectacular – part of the course and this year will be no different as the route travels past some of the best peaks in the notorious Darwin Range.
Pavicic, who has explored the Patagonian mountains for more than 20 years, explained: “The trekking in Chilean Patagonia is phenomenal but it is extremely wild. There are plenty of routes to enjoy for tourists, but where we go there’s nothing – just an extreme wild land of bush, bog, forest and mountains.”
The rough waters of the Beagle Channel will also prove a challenge for even the most professional kayaker.
Bernard Hug from the Swiss Team summed up the spirit of adventure racing: “We love to travel and to see something of the world. And we love extreme sports. In Patagonia we’re able to see beautiful landscape and compete at the same time with so many athletes from all over the world, so that’s perfect.”
Dennis Piretra, Chief Communications Officer for race sponsor, Wenger, described the essence of adventure racing in a nutshell: “The purity of the challenge that lies before the teams is very special and in today’s day and age, very unique,” he said. “The prize is not monetary, the prize is pride and glory. This spirit of this race hearkens back to times that were very different and people sought adventure not for financial gain, but to feed a primal need for discovering the unknown and finding our personal limits.”
The race will begin on the Straist of Magellan at 10:30am this morning, Patagonia time.
Good luck to everyone.