In the past month the AR World Series has taken teams to North America and Europe for the first time in 2012 as part of a schedule which spans 5 continents in 11 races. In races 6 and 7 of this year’s World Series the venues were the majestic high Alps of Switzerland at the APEX Race and the rugged backcountry of Maine for The Untamed New England adventure race.
The APEX (Alpine Expedition) Race was first, taking place from June 5th-10th in the Swiss Alps and any teams returning after last year’s inaugural race were under no illusions – it’s a tough place to race. Extreme elevation and the likelihood of extreme mountain weather make the Alps a unique challenge and the course set by Race Director Staffan Kallback and his team in the Berner Oberland delivered both.
Of the 18 teams who set off only 6 managed to complete the full route and 3 of these were from Sweden. A strong Swedish challenge was expected from the FJS, Sweco and Silva teams and they maintained their reputation for consistent high level performance, but last year’s winners, Team Silva, were unable to hold on to their race title. They gave it all they had in a titanic struggle with ‘Team Imboden Bike – R’ADYS’ who were second last year – but this time the Swiss team managed to reverse the result and take their first major race win.
Swiss Roll to a First World Series Win
The team is led by Bernhard Hug and had a new line up after last year. Andrea Huser, a former MTB Marathon World champion stayed with the team and experienced campaigners Jan Beguin and Marc Pschebizin (Germany) were recruited to try and win the race.
Hug explained their thinking; “After our 2nd place last year I had to find two new men for the team because they have focused this year on other sports. The Apex race with its really hard running stages (with a total of approx 13,000m elevation gain and loss) so you can only do it if you like to run downhill and can master the discomfort of sore muscles, joints and feet that come with it.
“So it was not easy to find two other strong guys. Andrea was set. She is just amazing and made for these sort of races. So by the end of last year I had convinced Jan and Marc to join the team and try to win the race … ” He added; “Our preparation was not very long. We only met once before the race for a short training session and we discussed everything else by email and phone. We could risk this “non professional” preparation because we’ve all known each other from other races.”
Hug clearly chose well but it was not a big gamble as both new team members have racing records going back over a decade. Beguin was part of the powerful Salomon Suisse team who were regular winners in the Salomon X-adventure races between 2000-2005 and raced in the last Raid Gauloises in 2003, as did Pschebizin, and along with Hug he has raced several times in the world class Abu Dhabi race. So they were a strong team, packed with experience and picked to win the APEX race and they were an exhausted and happy team when they did.
“We’ve been around for a while raced against each other with each other in many different teams – many top10 places in lot’s of races … but nowadays if you don’t win people don’t know you … so we’ve mastered this final step too.” Said a happy Hug. As mountain/alpine specialists they may also be well suited to the World Championship course in France in September too …
Maine Course Swallowed Up the Swedes
Race 7 in the series was the Untamed New England adventure race and this followed hot on the heels of APEX, taking place from June 19-24th. There were some similarities too, a tough course (only 10 of the 49 starters completed the full PRO course), and plenty of rain to cope with.
Maine has some historic connections in adventure racing as the host venue at Northern Outdoor was associated with the 1995 Eco-Challenge, the first of those iconic races, held as part of ESPN’s X-Games. Once again the Northern Outdoor team were part of the planning, helping the race team find locations and set up the ropes stages, which this year included a 300 foot Tyrolean traverse across the Dead River. There was also a pack raft stage in this race.
The race attracted a big entry from the US and Canada and visiting teams from Sweden and Denmark, including the current World Champions, Thule Adventure. This was the world champs first outing in the World Series since their win in Tasmania last year and they entered the same team of Martin Flinta and Per Vestling of Sweden, and Myriam Guillot and Jacky Boisset from France.
They will be defending their title in France later this year, and as a preparatory race it couldn’t have gone better. Thule Adventure completed the final paddling stage in the early hours of the morning a full 8 hours ahead of their nearest rivals – a clear marker that they are in good form for their World Championship title defence.
Flinta commented; “We had a great race. The navigation was a little bit tricky (but not too difficult for our super navigator Per) and the packraft stage was a new challenge for us, but we ran the last packraft stage instead of paddling, because the river was low in water during the night). This was good for us, because we were not the fastest packrafting team. Now we have some time for before starting our training for the World Championship.
(As they are already guaranteed their entry to ARWC the second placed team will win the free entry in France, but as yet the results are still not finalised and DART Nuun Sportmulti of the USA, who are second on the leaderboard, are waiting on that final confirmation.)
Next on the Menu
There are 3 more races before the World Championships in September, and the first is a new addition to the World Series – Endurance Quest in Finland. This race is organised by Petri Forsman, who was on the winning team at the first ever AR World Championship in 2001 and he is reviving a race he last organised in 2005.
Asked why he was bringing the event back he said, “It seems we left a big hole in many people’s hearts, because during the last years, people have been asking for it many times. Also, after the first years we had a feeling we didn’t accomplish everything, because we didn’t attract as many international teams as we wanted. This year we had a chance to be part of the ARWS series and make Endurance Quest better known internationally. In the future, we want to make EQ the world championship race, perhaps in 2014.”
He went to say; “Personally, I don’t like races that concentrate on including as many uphill sections as possible. The EQ course will be relatively even, compared to races organized in mountain areas. I also like races that have shorter sections and more discipline changes, and provide wonderful views on the way. And yes, that’s what you’ll see in EQ as well.” Then he added; “The sea and different water elements play a big role in EQ. I would advise the competitors to spend enough time practicing their kayaking skills.”
Next on the calendar comes the Gold Rush Mother Lode, to be held in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California between August 8-12th. This offers teams on the West Coast of the USA the chance to take part in the World Series and tackle a 5 day, non-stop unsupported course. This is the 3rd Gold Rush Mother Lode in California – though actually the first was in 1849 when they were searching for a different kind of gold so it is really the 4th!
This is the second time for the race as an World series AR qualifier and last year’s winners Team Tecnu Adventure Racing will be back to defend their title against strong competition from Spanish team Colombia Vidaraid (winners of Eco-Motion earlier this year), several local teams, Yogaslackers of the USA and a team from Dubai.
The final race before the World Champs is the ‘adidas TERREX Sting in Stirling’ in Scotland, taking place from August 18-25th. This 5 day race will lead teams through the Scottish Highlands on a course designed by former World Champion Nick Gracie and 35 teams have entered, including international teams from Canada, France, Ireland and Belgium.
To find out more about all these races and the Adventure Racing World Series visit http://www.arworldseries.com
Author: Rob Howard for ARWS
|ARWS Calendar 2012|
ARWS Calendar 2013