Raid in France went ‘Back to Nature’ in the Pyrenees this year, delivering their traditional mix of tough and technical racing in exceptional scenery.
This year 28 teams from around the world gathered at the town of Font-Romeu, among them the defending World Champions, Seagate, and the defending Raid in France champions 400 Team Naturex (ranked world number 6). As they began the 430km course, which would take them from the mountains to the coast, these two teams were expected to challenge for the title, and from the outset they showed why they were favourites.
The start was at midnight and they quickly took a lead heading into the first day of a race which was characterised by the extremely hot temperatures (mid 30’s), lots of climbing (16,000m of it) and majestic mountain scenery of the Pyrenees.
The course took teams throught the Pyrénées Orientales and Ariège departments, and in the early stages 400 Team Naturex and Seagate exchanged the lead. Seagate were returning to the AR World Series after a quiet year following the retirement of captain Nathan Fa’avae – except he was now back out of retirement and racing again! Sophie Hart wasn’t available to race so the team now included Isla Smith, a relatively inexperienced young expedition racer. She had her 22nd birthday during the race.
The leaders had an overnight dark zone stop prior to a rafting section on the Class IV rapids of the Auge River and when the race resumed they rafted down the Saint-Georges’ gorges to Cavirac. The question of whether this would still be the same dominant Seagate of recent years was quickly answered. They moved ahead on the rafting, and after that maintained a clear lead to the finish line to win yet another AR World Series, and Raid in France title.
The course took teams to a high point of 2881m on Géant peak, trekking in the Carança gorges and through the vineyards of the Corbieres uplands. There was a canyoing section in the Galamus gorges , a cave descent, and the organization had installed ropes in the ruins of two famous Cathar chateaux, including a long tyrolean in the chateau of Peyrepertusse and a checkpoint located in the ruins of the chateau of Termes where racers had an abseil and via ferrata to complete. At the end of the course teams returned to the Aude river to paddle 69km to the finish at Saint Pierre La Mer on the mediterranean coast.
Seagate completed their win in 100 hours and 28 minutes, jumping high in celebration on the finish line and confirming themselves as favourites for the AR World Championships, to be held in Shoalhaven, Australia in November. (This was the final AR World Series race of the year and completes the World Championship line up.)
On the finish line Nathan Fa’avae said, “Raid in France is an amazing race, where the stages were both varied and technically demanding. The landscapes they were very different from those we passed through during the 2012 World Championships and racing at the heart of the Pyrenees, the other great French mountain chain, was a great opportunity which we really enjoyed.”
Team 400 Team Naturex were just 90 minutes behind Seagate and team captain Sébastien Raichon said, “For us, this is a victory. We are not so far from Seagate, and we really loved the mountain trekking and the canyon and caving section in the Galamus gorges.. These kind of activities are only possible through Raid in France. Then, at sunrise, we took the zip-line arranged by the organisers in the Peyrepertuse castle cliffs. It was a magical section, one of the better I’ve experienced on Raid in France”.
You can see the full results on the race leaderboard at http://live.raidinfrance.com/, along with all the race reports, photos and videos.
For more information on the AR World Series and this year’s AR World championships see www.arworldseries.com