The fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge (ADAC) starts in two weeks and, for the first time, three South African teams will compete. They’ll race against a field of 50 teams – from over 20 countries – in the disciplines of mountain biking, sea kayaking, desert trekking and canyoneering. Teams www.AR.co.za, Cyanosis and Mzansi will cover 400 kilometres during this six-day, semi-staged adventure race.
Team www.AR.co.za makes their third consecutive appearance at ADAC. “South Africa’s adventure racing website, www.AR.co.za receives an award from the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority to take a novice team over to the race,” says website editor and team captain, Lisa de Speville. This will be her third ADAC race. Award teams can only have one member with international racing experience. “This year I’ve gone with a ‘girly’ team format of three women and one guy,” she adds. This female-weighted team format goes against the three-men and one-woman norm. De Speville will be racing with Lizelle van der Merwe, Lizelle Smit and Steven Erasmus.
“People usually associate Abu Dhabi with the other well-known emirate, Dubai. They’re neighbouring states, under the United Arab Emirates umbrella; much like Gauteng is a neighbour to North West Province,” explains de Speville. “They’re very different”.
Where Dubai is known for its shopping malls and man-made palm-shaped islands, Abu Dhabi has a strong outdoor and sporting focus. Abu Dhabi hosts many premier sporting events like the Abu Dhabi Formula One, the Abu Dhabi Marathon, Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, Red Bull Air Race as well as golf, tennis and cricket. “It’s an amazing outdoor environment; I love the desert and sea kayaking between the islands and mangroves off the city’s coast,” adds de Speville. Temperatures in December are mild and pleasant: a little cooler than a warm December day in Pretoria.
Team Mzansi is lead by Alex Pope, who was a novice member of Team www.AR.co.za at ADAC in 2009. At 22, Pope will be one of the youngest competitors; and certainly the youngest team captain. A member of the South African orienteering team, Pope’s sporting experience belies his age. He is accompanied by Tim Deane and Alan Neate, both experienced adventure racers, and Jane Swarbreck.
The third South African team to race in Abu Dhabi is Team Cyanosis, South Africa’s top team. The team is led by Nicholas Mulde. Clinton Mackintosh, Brian Gardner and Landie Visser complete the team. Mulder and Mackintosh have competed in a number of international events – most recently the Adventure Racing World Championships, which were held in Spain in September. Gardner, who has been racing for many years, and Visser are new to this team.
“I’d love to see Cyanosis notch a Top 10 at ADAC,” says de Speville. “But, it’s a high-intensity race – much higher than the non-stop multiday expedition races where Cyanosis excels. And, ADAC attracts an incredibly competitive field. So, it’s really hard to say where I see them placing.” Navigation at ADAC is straight-forward and GPS-assisted, which renders Cyanosis’ strong strategic and map-and-compass navigational skills obsolete.
ADAC is a race quite unlike traditional adventure races. It’s a staged event, where only the 120-kilometre desert-trekking stage goes through the night. Optional and compulsory checkpoints are included in the desert trekking and 128 kilometre sea kayaking stages. “Time penalties for missing optional are very heavy,” explains de Speville. “If you want to place, visiting all the checkpoints is non-negotiable”. Mid- and back teams chose to skip optional checkpoints to complete stages within the required time periods.
The event provides breakfast and dinner catering at most overnight camps, except for the two where the teams are self-sufficient. Bikes and race crates are transported by race organisation to transitions and camps. And, unlike every other event, ADAC provides competitors with bikes. “This makes travelling so much easier – and cheaper!” says de Speville. “You don’t get better value or organisation than at ADAC. Although the race is very competitive upfront, for midfield and back of the pack teams, it’s the best introduction to international racing.”
The event’s online tracking systems are excellent. Each team carries a transponder that transmits their location during the stages. The teams can be followed real-time through the event website at www.abudhabi-adventure.com. De Speville predicts that Cyanosis will be seen in the squabble for placings just behind the front pack, while her team – www.AR.co.za – and Mzansi will be around mid-field.
The three teams leave for Abu Dhabi from Monday, 6 December 2010. The race starts on Friday, 10 December 2010 and runs until Wednesday, 15 December 2010.
For more information on the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge and to follow the real-time tracking, visit www.abudhabi-adventure.com.
For information on the sport of adventure racing in South Africa, as well as news from the race, visit www.AR.co.za.