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The Adventure Race World Championships are happening at the moment in Portugal

59 teams coming from 26 countries including New Zealand, South Africa, France, Russia, Brazil and the United States are competing in the Adventure Racing World Championships in Portugal.

The XPD Portugal race began on the 8th November and will finish on the 13th. Prize giving will be the morning of Saturday, 14th November.

The total estimated distance for this extreme race is 910 kms and each team have approximately 127 hours to complete the race which consists of 5 stages and 21 sections.

Another year (2008), but the same race, this video will give you an understanding of the ultimate challenge that these athletes have given themselves.

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It is compulsory that each team has at least one female member in their total of 4 or all-women teams are allowed too. Entrants have their own support teams, but those who don’t (and there are 12 teams that don’t) will have support provided by the organisers. The winning team will be ‘the Adventure Race World Champions 2009’.

There are 5 mountain bike shortcuts in this race which will allow any team in difficulty to easily reach the finish line. These shortcuts can cut off a total of 136 km and will, on many occasions, allow the slower teams to recover the pace and come forward.

Organized by APCA – the Portuguese Association of Adventure Racing – and supervised by the Portuguese Orienteering Federation, this competition will visit some of the most beautiful and little known ecological reserves in Portugal including the magnificent Schist Villages giving the competitors a vision of a bygone era. Many of these schist villages are uninhabited and in ruins, but some have been renovated and repopulated.

The first stage, which started in showery weather, sett off from the Escoril and finished in Cascais. It was a total of 60.3 kms  with a total elevation of 1,689 m and included trekking, roller (or the use of trikke’s if you preferred) and mountain biking through a region known as the western tip of Europe wit its stunning views – if you had the time to appreciate them!

By the end of the first day the teams had realised that they were in for a gruelling race. Already teams were making strategic decisions to cut out the first stage in the hopes of leapfrogging time.

Stage 2 was a total length of 171.8 kms, total ascent of 10,821 m, total descent of 9,604 m beginning at Castelo da Lousa and finishing at Hotel Serra da Estrela. This section had the competitors trekking, mountain biking, canyoning and abseiling through lost villages, forests and up and over big hills.

There had been a few misunderstandings at the end of the first stage, with people beginning the second stage a bit unsure of how the point system worked. It was also becoming apparent that the trick now would be to work out how much of the route not to do. Both the canyoning and abseiling were avoidable, for example, although bonus CP’s were available on the abseiling section. It is a risky tactic to miss a CP as it is the number of CP’s which decide the winners, with the bonuses and time only coming into play if teams are tied on CP’s.

After the canyoning it was a short trek to the next transition to prepare for the long mountain bike section through the night. Some teams were worried about the weather conditions for this as there had been a strong wind blowing all day and the biking route was along ridge tops for much of the way, but as it turned out fog and low cloud were as much of a problem as the wind. By the time teams were up on the ridge-line the visibility was only a few metres.

The teams were headed for Assistance Point two at Penhas da Saude where the leaders arrived around dawn yesterday, and from there on they resumed trekking across Portugal’s highest peaks, which already have a thin covering of fresh snow!

Nike/Beaver Creek and Orion Health, are leading the pack at the moment and have so far attempted the whole course.

The weather conditions in the early part of Monday night were harsh, with the dense fog lingering over the hills and the wind increasing in strength to gale force. The wind chill temperatures were around freezing and there was little shelter.

This is turning out to be one helluva race…

At 45km the full trekking stage across the mountains was longer than originally stated, and it was taking even the fastest teams more time to complete than they anticipated.

In any normal adventure race Nike/Beaver Creek and Team would be favourites and their battle so far in this race is no different. But it’s this race which is a bit different…

While they decided on their route Mike Kloser of Nike was heard to say, “I’m worried about the cut offs.” A strange thing to say, you might think, by an experienced adventure racer. However, it’s not strange at all and he’s right to be concerned as this race requires the fastest teams to make choices they are not used to or comfortable with, i.e. to miss checkpoints. Last year all the fastest teams at the start of the race tried to get all the CP’s … and they all missed a cut-off and were out of the running.

There is still a long time to the first cut off late tomorrow night, but for now all that can be said is that Nike and OrionHealth are the teams with most CP’s and moving the fastest … but nobody will know for some time yet if they are winning!

Stage 3, today, is 214.6 km long with a 3,441 m ascent and a 4,633 m descent through a deserted but beautiful and challenging landscape on mountain bikes, kayaks and rollers….

Good luck to all…

NEWS ALERT (7.30 p.m. Wednesday, 11th November):

The harshness of the mountains at the end of the 3rd day of the competition   have caused the first casualties in the Estoril Portugal XPD Race: 7 teams have reluctantly withdrawn – out of the 59 that started.

The title holders – New Zealand’s “Orion Health” – are still well placed in front, closely followed by the North-American “Nike/Beaver Creek”.

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