Getting to the Start Line of the Adventure Racing World Championships

The Swedish Armed Forces team at Registration
The Swedish Armed Forces team at Registration

At Hotel Guarani in the middle of downtown Asuncion, capital city of Paraguay, teams from around the world have now begun the first official formalities for the 2022 Adventure Racing World Championship.  On a sunny morning, the spacious swimming pool terrace and first floor meeting rooms are being used for registration and gear checks as Expedicion Guarani swings into motion.

Teams have been working and preparing for this for many months, or years, if you count all the training and racing to get to an Adventure Racing World Championship, the pinnacle of their sport.  Some are winners of the Adventure Racing World Series Qualifiers and all will have put in long hours of training, and racing to be ready.

There are 14 excited teams proud to represent Paraguay and the all of the other teams have had to travel to get to the race, and that can be the first challenge the teams have to meet.  It’s often said getting to the start line of an expedition race is one of the hardest parts of the event, and for some teams here that is all too true.

Most have had no problems; their planning, paperwork, flights, connections and travel have gone well and they have only minor issues to cope with.  One of the first teams to pass through the gear checks this morning were the defending World Champions, the Swedish Armed Forces Adventure Team, and they’ve had a trouble free trip, with just a few minor equipment quibbles to trouble them now they are here.

The adrenalin packs they need for the first aid kit, which they left to buy on arrival, having been told they were available, are not in the shops in the small sizes they need, and despite coming from the home of the Silva compass they couldn’t source one calibrated for Paraguay.  (Compasses are on sale by the gear check however.)  The referee was not sure if Brazil Multisport’s strobe light was big enough and Nick Gracie has spent all week trying to source a replacement bike part for one which was damaged in transit.

Merrell Songlines were struggling to test and set up a kayak seat, and there will be a hundred of these small issues to resolve today and tomorrow, before teams can start.  There is a lot of attention, to a lot of detail, ahead the start of an expedition race.

The seat arrangement was for Tracey Campbell, who stepped into the Merrell Songlines team at 2 days notice last week when Jess Pollock had the crushing news of a stress fracture to her femur.  Tracey is an experienced racer who said, “I’ve been a bit of super sub with several South African teams.”  Even so, such a late team change is a hard adjustment for the team to make, and Tracey had no time to prepare.  Lance Kime said, “It took out the rest of the team’s sponsor budget as we lost the fare paid for Jess and the last minute fare price was twice what we’d originally paid, but we’re here now and ready to race.”   Tracey added, “Compared to other teams our problems are not so bad!”

Merrell Songlines complete the paperwork
Merrell Songlines complete the paperwork

She was thinking about the Polish team Gymcity AR and Estonian ACE Adventure La Sportiva.  The Estonians all arrived in Paraguay, but almost none of their equipment did.  Of the nine bike and gear boxes the travelled with, only one arrived!  At first the airline companies on routes from Estonia to Paris, to Washington, to Panama to Paraguay, couldn’t even locate the lost bags, but the news is better today.

“We know most of them are now moving,” said Silver Eensaar, as he ruefully watched the other teams complete gear checks.  “We don’t know which boxes are which though, or what will arrive first, as they are not all in the same place, so we will have to hope and manage with the help of the community to provide what we are missing.  I think we can find some paddles for the second stage, and the opening stage is the long trek, so we have a few days before we need our bikes.  With the approval of the Race Director and Referee, the bikes can be moved to the transition where will first need them, if they arrive after we start.”  It’s a stressful and worrying time and he added, “It’s never happened to us before and maybe we got complacent.”  They’ve just been very unlucky.

Gymcity AR has bigger problems, as they are missing half of the team! Zuzanna Madaj and Mateusz Talanda are in Paraguay, but their two team mates were refused boarding in Warsaw as they didn’t have a transit visa for the USA.  Even Zuzanna and Mateusz only had theirs come in 20 minutes before the flight and had to race to board.

“New flights are very expensive, “ said Mateusz, “but Maciej, who is our most experienced racer, still wanted to come.  We posted a fundraiser before our second flight, and by the time we landed we had half of the money already!  We want to thank our friends and family in Poland, and those in the adventure racing community who helped us.  We hope Maciej will arrive the day before the start and a Brazilian racer, Fredy Guerra, can join us.  He was here to provide media to Brazil Multisport and has no equipment, but I think Urtzi is lending him his bike and he can find what he needs.”

Zuzanna added, “We just hope Maciej gets here as he is not Covid vaccinated, so can only travel through countries accepting test certificates.”  Mateusz agreed, “Originally we hoped for top 10 but now we first hope we can start, and then that we can reach the finish.”

There will be other teams with different injury, equipment and logistical problems, but one way or another they are usually sorted out.  Adventure racing teams make great sacrifices to reach a World Championship and don’t give up easily!  The qualities they rely on when racing, such as adaptability, team work and determination often come into play just to make the start line.

You can follow the live coverage of the Adventure Racing World Championship on the ARWS Facebook and Instagram pages and on www.expedicionguarani.com where there is a link to the live race tracking.  The race starts at 12.00 on Saturday Sept. 17th.

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