Former Springbok Stefan Terblanche may not be flying down the touchline but is moving steadily through the challenging GODZone course with the help of experienced teammates of Team Merrell. It’s the world’s largest expedition race and – with the event, directors admitted to wanting to take the sport of Adventure Racing back to its hardcore roots – the toughest in years. So tough that sometime during Day One, 5 times world champion Nathan Fa’ave reckoned only 8 of the 92 teams would complete the course.
Teams navigate themselves, non-stop, around an unmarked course roughly 550km through the remote wilderness of Fiordland, south New Zealand. Carrying everything they need for legs lasting up to 3 days, they need to find checkpoints placed in dense forest, atop mountains, or along rivers, using packrafts to get across large expanses of lakes or down whitewater rapids. And when they finish one leg, they immediately start on another, travelling through day and night on mountain bikes, on foot or on their boats.
The fastest team is expected to finish in 5 days with the course open for 10.
GODZone has always had the respect of the multisport racing community but it shot into the general public’s eye when retired All Black legend and national hero, Richie McCaw joined a team to compete in 2016 and finished 20th, a very respectable position for a novice racer. This year he’s back prodding the front end with Team PwC and heading for a Top 5.
Much was made of the ‘rivalry’ between the two rugby champions before the race but for each of them, and their teams, the focus is on getting through as best they can. Only at the end of the race will they be able to catch up and compare notes on the event that they both fought through.
“Yup, we can do this” nodded Stefan after finishing the first trek and packraft leg in 23rd place after 27 hours. “Its been tough. It’s going to get tougher but we’re in good hands.” He said, indicating captain Graham Bird, a veteran of 21 expedition races and fellow teammates Grant Ross and Jane Swarbreck. “There’s no halftime, we’re constantly on the go. If we’re not moving we’re sleeping. That’s what it comes down to.”
Thank goodness for the biltong that fellow South Africans, now living in New Zealand, arranged for the team as it was impossible to bring into the country.
Follow the race progress via an interactive live tracking site on www.godzoneadventure.com also displaying spectacular images and footage and the Merrell Adventure Addicts FB page. Merrell is expected to finish sometime on Thursday 8th March.
Thanks to the team sponsor Merrell as well as Black Diamond, Island Tribe, Ocean Eyewear, Extreme Lights, ButtaNutt Spreads, Racefood, Giant, Fluid Kayaks, BackCountry Cuisine and Nuun.