The Brits streaked through to a surprising last minute victory, pipping Team Nike/Beaver Creek at the post – surprising everybody.
Helly Hanson/Prunesco are the 2009 Adventure Racing’s World Champions with a time of 128:32:58. With an average age of 37, the British Team Helly Hansen-Prunesco surprised everybody with a vigorous final sprint and conquered their first world title in adventure racing. Team leader Tom Gibbs – an Airbus designer – revealed the team’s strategy: “We came to Portugal with no major expectations and therefore put little pressure on the team. Our strategy turned out fine and it was all decided on the final hours of the race”.
Geoff Hunt, AR World Series director, and of Southern Traverse New Zealand fame, in the closing speeches, said, “If one racer in the room [Tom Gibbs of Helly Hansen Prunesco] can fail to finish in four World Championships, then be on the winning team in his fifth, then anyone who had not achieved their aims, or fallen short, should take a lesson from that – “don’t be disappointed, be determined, and maybe one day you can be on the top step of that podium too”.
Team Nike/Beaver Creek, hard fighters to the end, were close behind with 127:38:36. Team Leader, Mike Kloser, acknowledged the standard of racing this year, praising what he called “the toughest field ever assembled at a World Championships”. He also remarked that their strategy had had to change after day two, when they realised that clearing the course was not going to be realistic.
Lundhags Adventure, Sweden, came in third with 127:34:52 and Orion Health from New Zealand, who were expected to dice with Nike all the way to the end, finished fourth with 127:59:25 – the times were so close that it could still be called dicing. Wayne Oxenham, the team leader, was separated from his other three team members and was lost for over an hour: “It was a somewhat traumatic experience, as I was alone for about 1h20m, completely lost and disoriented, having no idea where the others were. I ended up following another passing team (Nike) and managed to re-join them further down the track”.
The definition of Adventure racing? It is the sport of teams of athletes crossing natural terrain using muscle and wit and all-the-while solving the problems that arise from true adventure and all competitors to the XPD Portugal Adventure Racing Championsips knew that this was going to be a seriously world championship to challenge all others.
Way back on the third day people were already predicting that the normal strategy planning would be thrown out of kilter if risks and gambles weren’t seized when the opportunities arose.
Two thirds of the way through, out of the 900 Kms track, the 50 teams left in the race (out of the original 59) were having to make major strategic decisions and title holders were having a hard time keeping up with the the leaders.
North-American Team Nike/Beaver Creek were still leading the pack at this stage, but a number of other teams were also very well placed to fight for victory. Title holders, Team OrionHealth from New-Zealand, were in fourth place surprised by this Estoril Portugal XPD Race’s track. Team leader Wayne Oxenham explains: “The track is very rough and it’s impossible to collect all the checkpoints and that has somewhat disturbed our strategy”.
At times this race was brain over brawn.
After 128 hours of non-stop progression and over 900 kms run on foot, mountain-bike and kayak, the 2009 Adventure Racing World Cup -Estoril Portugal XPD Race turned out to be the supreme challenge to fortitude and strategy. Out of the 59 teams from 25 different countries that left Estoril on Sunday 8th November, 40 were able to classify, which is an impressively low withdrawal rate considering the length and the harshness of the track and terrain.
Geoff Hunt also commented on the strategy required to win the race, a new component to adventure racing and something which some teams had not figured out until the latter stages, “some haven’t even figured it out now” he added!
The strategic element, and the race format, haven’t been popular with all the racers, especially those used to a more linear ‘first over the line’ format, but it is something which teams recognise has lead to a race which had been thrilling right to the finish and adding yet another facet to this extreme sport.
Our congratulations to everyone…