Adventure racing is a sport which is renowned for spanning the world and going to the remotest corners of the globe, and for the 2014 Adventure Race World Championships the destination is Ecuador and ‘La Mitad del Mundo’ – the middle of the world!
In less than two weeks time 50 international teams will meet in Quito, the highest capital city in the world at 2,800m, which sits right on the Equator.
They will gather there to prepare for a 700km race which will take them through Ecuador’s bio-diverse terrains and rich cultural heritage. The teams of 4 must be mixed in order to be ranked in the World Championships and with over 100 support staff and media attending there will be 6 continents and 30 countries represented.
For the first time in the 12 year history of the World Championships all of the teams will compete under the flag of a single nationality, representing the majority of the team members. After the opening ceremony in San Francisco Plaza, which will be hosted by the mayor of Quito, there will be a flag parade through Quito’s historic old town, which was the first ever designated UNESCO World Heritage site, followed by the technical briefing at the Sucre Theatre.
The briefing is the first time the teams will receive the full details of the course as it is traditional to keep expedition adventure racing courses secret until the last moment. However, they do already know the general outline of what lies ahead and where the race will finish.
Across the Equator, Over the Andes & Through the Amazon Basin
They will cover 710 kms in total. The race will start at 3600m, beginning with a trek over a high Andean pass at almost 4500m and the first half of the race will be held at altitudes between 2000m and 3800m. Teams will alternately trek and mountain bike this part of the course, crossing volcanic mountain ranges and the humid tundra of the Paramo.
The second half of the course takes teams down to the coast and includes more mountain biking plus river and ocean kayaking stages. The later part of the race will pass through the tropical rainforests of the Ecuadoran Amazon and areas of coastal mangrove swamp, before finishing at the surfing resort town of Mompiche on the Pacific shore.
The extreme range of climatic conditions will add to the challenge the teams face while the biologically diverse terrains and rich flora and fauna will ensure they have a memorable journey through the many parks and wildlife reserves of Ecuador.
Race Director Santiago Lopez said, “Our philosophy is to make it tough, but not to punish the teams. We want them to enjoy the entire route and to get to the most beautiful places. They should see the highlights of Ecuador and get to know the country from inside. When things are hard they must feel their efforts are well rewarded. They should leave with unforgettable memories and knowing they have discovered the soul of our country.”
Lopez leads a team from Proyecto Aventura, one of the busiest and most experienced organising teams in the AR World Series. They organise 10 endurance races a year and have staged the expedition adventure race Huairasinchi since 2003, and now it is their chance to host the World Championships.
Lopez explains, “Huairasinchi is a word in the native Kichwa language that means “the strength of the wind” in English. It is much more than an adventure race; it is a life style that allows you to reach unimaginable goals and exceed both your physical and mental limits.”
Part of that race ethos is a strong commitment to conservation and respect for the environment, and this matches a national policy to protect nature. Ecuador was the first nation to recognise the rights of nature in its constitution and 19% of the country is protected in reserves, parks and wildlife refuges, several of which the teams will get to explore.
Teams to Watch
The teams coming to Ecuador include the top two teams in the world rankings, and 7 of the top 10.
The AR World Series rankings were revised recently and Team Seagate of New Zealand took over the top spot after a year of racing in which they are unbeaten and have won two World Series events, Godzone on home territory and Expedition Africa in RSA. All of the team members have won World titles before and they may feel they have something to prove after dropping out of last year’s World Championships in Costa Rica.
They will not face any defending champions as last year’s winners Thule Adventure are not competing. The two French members of the team have now left to form Team France and they will be a new force to be reckoned with, while a third member of last year’s winning team, Stuart Lynch of New Zealand, has joined his Seagate.
Columbia Vidaraid (Spain) were second last year and won the Untamed New England World Series race this year. They are second in the world rankings and along with Haglofs Silva of Sweden (ranked 5th) have the advantage of keeping a consistent team over recent races. Both will be strong contenders as will other World Series race winners Raidlight 400 (France) and adidas Terrex UK, who won Raid in France and ITERA in Wales respectively.
adidas Terrex have also won the European Championships this year and will have a changed team in Ecuador, as will Tecnu Adventure of the USA. These two teams tied for third place at last year’s World Championships and since then both have had team line up changes and injury problems – but they’ve both continued to win consistently! Tecnu are on a 7 race winning streak and recently became the first team ever to retain the USARA National title, they’ve also raced in Ecuador before and know what to expect.
There are many other strong and experienced challengers too, including two more Swedish teams, Peak Performance and the Swedish Armed Forces AR Team. The most experienced and highest ranked Ecuadorian team are racing under a new sponsors name of ‘Movistar’. They will have the advantage of altitude acclimatisation and are joined by U.S. racer Jari Kirland, one of the most experienced female racers in the world.
All those who have raced in Ecuador before speak highly of the race organisation so all the teams are expecting a race of the highest standard. “We have raced a lot in South America, but never in Ecuador, but we have heard so many good things about the race and the organisation so we are very excited,” said Michael Lindnord of Peak Performance, himself a former organiser of a World Championships.
Those visiting the country for the first time are excited at the journey that lies ahead of them as they will get to explore Ecuador in way no one ever has before. “We have never raced there before so we feel very happy to come and discover this beautiful country,” said Sebastian Raichon, captain of Raidlight 400.
The race begins on Sunday November 9th and there will be live website coverage throughout, including news, photos, videos and satellite tracking of all the teams.
For details of the race and the live race coverage see http://www.proyectoaventura.com/6_203_home.html
For all the information on the AR World Series and rankings see www.arworldseries.com
Photo credits – 1 Rodas Llegada , 2 Gabriel Cadenas, 3 Roberto Espinosa, 4 Gabriel Cadenas