Team Brazil Multisport defended their title as the Adventure Racing World Series South America champions at the 200km La Gesta race in Paraguay. The team, ranked #3 in the world, crossed the finish line in Hernandarias to win a hard fought race in which the lead changed several times.
Teams from 6 South American countries travelled to the town, which is on the banks of the Parana River and the border with Brazil. The race had a world class entry with the very best teams on the continent in the line up, including Vidaraid Adventure (Brazil), Uruguay Ultra Sports, San Juan Aventura (Argentina) and Team Ulala (Paraguay).
Paraguay has a strong adventure racing community and hosted the Adventure Racing World Championship in September 2022. At the World Champs the Race Director was Urtzi Iglesias and Rodrigo Cubilla of the Nandupe Aventura team was racing, and for La Gesta they swapped roles. Iglesias raced with his Vidaraid team and Cubilla organised the South American Championship. Also racing was Nelson Yanez, who was the Race Director of the first ARWS South America Champs in Chile last year.
After heavy overnight rain, which left the trails thick with mud, the race began on a fine, but cool day, with a run to the river and an opening paddling stage on the Parana River. This offered an early tactical choice, where teams could portage their kayaks overland for several kilometres, or paddle a longer distance to reach the next checkpoint. Vidaraid and Brazil Multisport led and chose to paddle, but the portage was quicker. Ulala and Uruguay Ultra Sports chose to portage and lead out of the first transition. The race was on!
The next biking stage included a stop for an abseil down the face of a dam and a short swim, and the trails were thick with mud which clogged the bikes. Vidaraid arrived with two regular team members, Iglesias and Marco Amselem, recovering from illness and injury, and with two strong triathletes invited into the team. They made a strong start and took the lead from Uruguay Ultra Sports on the opening cycle stage. Brazil Multisport had to stop for a puncture and the Ulala team had much worse mechanical issues and dropped from first place at the start of the stage to 11th by the time they finished it.
Mud and managing mechanical issues were a feature of the race, as was good navigation, and strong team work to support ill or weary team members – all part of a good adventure race!
As the race progressed through the surrounding forest, country trails and towns, the fortunes of teams changed. Uruguay Ultra Sports withdrew and going into the night Brazil Multisport took the lead from Vidaraid, who were now resting longer and walking more on the foot stages. There was a good race for the top 5 places, with Black Mamba (Brazil) in the mix for the podium places. They explained how they benefitted from the withdrawal of the Uruguayan team.
“The second trek was the most challenging in terms of navigation. We rappelled and kept running the entire time and close to PC 8 we found the teams in 4th and 3rd place. We decided to reach the CP through the river and moved into 3rd. At the end of the trek, the 3 teams arrived together. We were the first team to leave, but right away a tire problem cost us 20 minutes. After another 2 kms of pushing the bike through the mud the gearbox of one of the bikes broke. We decided to return and the Uruguay team, who had abandoned the race, kindly gave us a bike, allowing us to continue.”
In the final stages Brazil Multisport opened up a strong lead, and crossing the finish line after 21 hours of racing they had a commanding 2 hour lead. Through the night they’d keep up their pace and not missed a beat trekking, cycling and navigating their way to retaining their title.
The team was lead by Camila Nicolau and included Jonas Junckes, Thiago Bonini and Paraguayan racer Fernando Perez (who won the previous edition of La Gesta with the team).
Nicolau said, “Our team work was outstanding and our strategies good, so we are delighted and honoured to be champions again and to go to the World Championships in South Africa representing Brazil and South America!”
Asked about the challenge of rising higher in the world ranks and winning the world title, she said, “We have to continue to work hard together and perhaps get a bit stronger as the top two teams in the world are almost like Olympic athletes.” Perez, who was called into the team at 3 weeks’ notice, said he was pleased to represent the adventure racing community in Paraguay.
Vidaraid held on to take second place and they will race against Brazil Multisport again in the new ARWS Demonstration race, Expedition Ozark, in the USA in April.
In third place was San Juan Aventura representing Argentina. Some of the team previously raced with the Russian team Blizzard, and they have now relocated to live in Argentina, bringing their considerable race experience into an ambitious team and squad. Black Mamba finished 4th, making it three Brazilian teams in the top four places, and Ulala fought their way back into 5th place to be the first Paraguayan team to finish.
The competitors praised the course set by Rodrigo Cubilla, who thanked his organising team and said he was very proud to have hosted the championship and happy with outcome of the race.
This year’s ARWS South America series begins in March at the XK Race in Argentina and includes races in Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and Paraguay again, before the 2023 Championship final at the Malacara Race in Brazil in December.
Full more information on La Gesta see; https://nandupe.com.py/
For information on ARWS South America see @arwssouthamerica and https://arworldseries.com/south-america