Travel bugs: going to international races

If the words ‘International Race’ colour your thoughts with Dollar signs and a feeling of financial despair instead of exuberant optimism, reconsider your options. It is possible to get your team overseas to compete in an international event for far less dineros than you imagine – by applying these guidelines.

Entry Fees & extras

Entry fees vary according to country, currency, event duration and add-ons. Locally, we pay an entry fee and anything else (meals, accommodation) is extra; foreign events include everything – from airport transfers to hire of special gear – in a package. 

Fees range from US$2,000 (R15,000) to US$7,000 (R52,000) for a four-person team. Paired teams may pay upwards of US$1,500. This doesn’t seem so bad when you consider that Cape Epic, a single discipline (mtb), full-service event on local turf is R25,200 per pair.

“Fees for races in less developed nations are generally lower, so these are always quite attractive,” says Team Cyanosis’ captain Nicholas Mulder. Indeed, you get more for your Rands if you’re paying in Pesos rather than Euros.

Support Crew

It is far easier – and less costly – to race abroad without support crew in unsupported events where race organisation transports team equipment. “I would always choose an unsupported race over a supported one because all the teams are in the same situation,” says Tatum Prins, an experienced international racer in Team McCain Adventure Addicts.

Participating team members customarily cover the costs of their support crew, sharing the extra expenses for their crew’s accommodation, travel and food. And don’t forget the hire fee for the support vehicle and fuel.

“Unfortunately,” adds Mulder, “unsupported races seem to be less and less common”.

Flights, visas and buying power

Flights and travel packages get you to major airports at reasonable rates. Once you tag on that second flight, to another country, city or smaller town, that’s when costs escalate.  Keep in mind too your desired destination’s tourist season and the benefit of purchasing tickets months in advance to get better rates.

Some current air ticket prices

  • XP Australia, May 2010.To Cairns, via Sydney and Brisbane – R14,000
  • Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, December 2010. Direct to Abu Dhabi  – R6,500

Phone the airline in advance about excess weight. Explain that you’re a South African team, ask for an extra allowance per person and make sure you get a letter confirming this arrangement. “Our last experience, going to Malaysia for the Perak Amanjaya International Eco Adventure, was fantastic,” says Prins. “It took one phone call and they gave us an extra 20kg’s each.”

Some airlines now charge a flat rate for bike transport. “We stuff the bike boxes full of gear as there is no per kilogram charge on weight,” Mulder explains.

Visas can be a pain in the butt – and pricey, at between R650 (Schengen) and over a thousand Rand (UK and US). Some, like those for India, are free-of-charge paperwork formalities. Fortunately, many countries just let us in.

New skills and more toys

Exotic disciplines introduce new skills and additional equipment, which can be borrowed or bought second-hand. “We got our skates second-hand and we had to learn from scratch. It was very amusing,” says Prins. “To train for a new discipline is fun and refreshing as it breaks up your normal training routine.”

Climate determines clothing choices; thermal clothing for colder climes, wet weather gear for rainy places and insulated paddling gear for sea outings. Borrow what you can and while you’re unlikely to get kit sponsored completely, many local suppliers and agents will gladly offer your team wholesale on their products.

Isn’t local lekker?

Local is lekker but the personal and competitive rewards of racing abroad are enormous.

International racing raises your performance.  “You get to see how other teams race, the decisions they make and why and the gear they use. You realise that we don’t do things that differently. We (South Africans) can do as well as any foreign team,” says Prins.

Where travel opens your eyes to the World and participation ups your game, personal experiences and treasured memories are most rewarding. “You make amazing contacts at international races; this creates opportunities later on,” Prins says. In 2005, racing in a team without sponsorship, her team held an auction to raise the funds to get them to New Zealand. Two years later she was invited to join a Danish team in Scotland for the AR World Champs.

“Racing overseas alters your outlook,” Prins adds. “This sport is bigger than you think and when you stand on the start line, with over 60 teams from all over the World, you have feelings and emotions you will never forget.”

Yes, you can!

While you won’t get to race overseas for two grand, international racing is not beyond reach. Plan in advance, save money specifically for the race, organise fund-raising activities and cultivate relationships with sponsors. Et voila!

Author: Lisa de Speville | Published in Go Multi Magazine, MarchApril 2010 (issue 14.1)