The Estonian ACE Adventure – La Sportiva team made one last spirited effort to run across the finish line at the Adventure Racing World Championships in Gallaecia today, and a couple of them even managed a jump to celebrate completing the 610km course.
Their feet were blistered and sore, everything hurt, and they had seen the race lead slip from their grasp on the last night, but the finish was a joyous one and they were delighted to get their highest placing at the World Championships. Their race time was 4 days 5 hours 54 minutes, and they slept around 4 hours during the race.
“We have been through a lot of emotions in the last 24 hours,” said Silver Eensaar, “and at one time in the night we wondered if we might have to quit the race when Timo was sick. So, we are just glad we could continue and we congratulate SAFAT. They raced better and smarter than us, and didn’t get themselves into the situation we did.”
The Swedish Armed Forces Team was on the line to applaud them in, having waited for them for 4 hours, rather than leave for their accommodation. Timo Tammemae explained to them what had happened to him in the night when his team had slowed and the Swedes had taken the lead. (Often in adventure racing the teams have no idea what is happening to their competitors or what position they hold in the race.)
Reflecting on his teams progress over the years, Silver explained how the team had improved to become one of the top squads in the world over a decade of racing, but still seemed surprised by their success. Speaking about the fact the previous World Champs from New Zealand were missing from the competition this year he’d said, “We know they are a great team, and the fact they are not here gives us ordinary guys a chance to win.”
No one else would describe his team, or the others in this race, as ‘ordinary’ – not by any definition and that humbleness is one of the strengths of the Estonian team. They enjoy the places and courses they visit, and don’t let competition or expectation get in the way of that.
Just as the sun set the third placed team, NIAR (Nordic Islands Adventure Race), arrived to cross the finish line. They finished in 4 days 7 hours 37 minutes, and their 3rd position is a remarkable achievement as they are a new team, with a mix of very experienced and relatively inexperienced racers.
The team is led by Staffan Bjorklund, who is the Race Director at Nordic Islands, which is part of the AR World Series, and he has raced in world class teams in the past. Earlier in the week he said, “People think I retired from racing, but I didn’t, I just got busy organising races!”
He put together his new team to get back to racing, and they’ve achieved a fantastic result in their first big race. “We’ve had only one 24 hour race together,” he said, “but some of us have raced together before over the years.”
For Johann Bjorke Edman the race has been a huge step up in distance as before joining the team she had only completed a one day race. “It’s been an amazing experience,” she said, “and even in the last kilometre we were discussing doing another race, though some of us said to maybe wait a couple of weeks after this before deciding. She looked much less footsore and drawn than some of the other finishers, and was smiling happily as she talked to the ARWS film crew.
The other two team members are Sonny Petersson, a vastly experienced racer, and Rikard Norlin, who has raced internationally, with some success, but never taken on such a long race. “I think my longest race was maybe 3 or 4 days,” he said, “and we tried to race it with no sleep, but here we needed a better strategy. We planned to sleep 90 minutes a night but not the first night, and have 15 minute power naps when needed. But in fact we overslept the second night and had 3 hours sleep. We were in a comfortable barn and it was raining hard outside and I think it might be my strongest memory of the race. It is often those strange things that happen that stick with you.”
Their result means two Swedish teams are on the podium, and they could have 3 in the top five. With strong new racers like Norlin and Edman coming through and new teams still able to secure such amazing results Swedish racing remains as strong as ever.
Photos: Adventure Sports Media