Course changes force tactical rethink

Course amends and reversed race direction are bound to impact tactics, as teams face new obstacles and challenges.

Since it first began in 2007, the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge has always started in Abu Dhabi city, travelled west down the coast then east across the desert to Jebel Hafeet and the finishing line in Al Ain. This year, for the first time ever, the race will be run in the opposite direction, bringing subtle changes to the overall course profile and specific challenges that teams can only meet by rethinking and adapting their tactics.

The 2010 race begins with a short but highly competitive prologue event around the sweeping Corniche Beach at the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi. Although the 22km circuit still includes an exciting swimming leg, two canoeing sectors replace the customary seafront biking sprint. An early morning test of speed and stamina will give the top teams plenty of opportunity to weigh up the competition.

The teams then transfer immediately to the Oasis city of Al Ain for a fast bike stage from Al Jahili Fort to the foot of Jebel Hafeet – Abu Dhabi’s highest peak. This 29km, semi-sprint biking leg switches seamlessly to a relatively short 6km run to a 30m rappel, bringing day one to a close.

The following day begins with an adventure run back to where the teams left their bikes the previous evening for the start of a testing 14km ride up the winding asphalt road to the summit of Jebel Hafeet. Next comes a canyon descent followed by a ropes section and a climb back to the summit with a cable bridge thrown in for good measure. It is the longest stage ever at Jebel Hafeet and the first time the teams will climb and descend the mountain over a single day.

At the end of the day teams will transfer to Umm as Zummul for next day’s 94km MTB ride along the desert road that leads to the Qasr al Sarab resort, where they will start the two-day, 121km desert trek across the Rub’ al Khali. In past years, the teams have raced from west to east, with the prevailing wind at their backs, climbing the firmer, gentler slope and descending the steeper, softer side of the immense dunes that constitute the world’s largest uninterrupted stretch of desert.

Racing in the opposite direction, they will be forced to climb the softer slope and descend the relatively rigid, wind-packed side; an energy-sapping task compounding an already demanding stage. Added to the obvious challenge of crossing the desert on foot in this ‘tougher’ direction is the absence of a grouped start, enabling teams to be more innovative and aggressive in their tactical and route choices.

The 2010 grand finale will be a two-day sea-kayaking leg covering the 129km of coastline from Mirfa to Abu Dhabi city. With the wind behind them, the teams should be able to take full advantage of the sails built into their state-of-the-art kayaks, ensuring fierce competition for top rankings all the way to the Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach finish line.

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