The first AR World Series event in Japan named ARJ (Adventure Race Japan) starts this Friday 15th of June. The event has attracted 29 teams from around the globe in what is classed a demonstration event, a shorter version of a full qualifier. They include representatives from Australia, Brazil, Spain, Canada, Hong Kong, New Caledonia and Singapore. There is also a strong local showing with 24 Japanese teams tackling the course.
It hasn’t been a smooth beginning for race favourites, world ranked number 3, Columbia Vidaraid. Veteran team member, Marco Amselem is Brazilian and didn’t realise he needed a visa to enter Japan until a few days ago. His flights were quickly changed and there was been a lot of last minute scrambling by the organisers to ensure the paperwork for the visa was complete. His team are hoping he will arrive tonight. AR legend, Jen Seggar, who hasn’t raced with the team before also had problems. She cracked pedal and is concerned it might break out on the course. Jen has been anxiously looking for a spare to carry as a back up. With the cumulative altitude of one of the mountain bike legs being over 5,000 metres, a broken pedal could spell disaster for the team.
The Australian team, Dynamite Peak Adventure, will be making sure that they give Columbia Vidaraid a good race. They would like to win and will be ready to capitalise on any errors the favourites might make. This team is a new line up that includes some of Australia’s best adventure race athletes including Timothy Boote, Angus Rodwell, Elizabeth Dornom and Jarad Kohlar. Elizabeth was a part of the winning team from Australia’s ARWS event, XPD, which was held in March. Angus and Tim explained getting the team together proved quite easy as they were all drawn to the idea of exploring this part of Japan. As Liz said, “When I was asked by the team to race in this event in Japan, it took me under a minute to commit”.
In addition to these two teams there are only a handful of other experienced teams. The majority stepping up to the start line are relatively inexperienced and it is a great sign of the popularity of adventure racing in the region. Jens Wira, from the Singaporean team, Merlions On An Adventure, was introduced to adventure racing last year. His team took advantage of the expenses paid youth team package offered by ARWS China. “Last year in China was a wonderful adventure, but this year I hope we do better. It would be nice not to be at the back”. There is a good chance this won’t happen as it is the first race for many of the Japanese teams.
Today teams started preparing for the event by proving their proficiency in white water rafting and roping safety. Course Director Masato Tanaka is a veteran of over 40 expedition races and greeted teams on the jetty of a nearby lake and explained the process. Each team was to paddle a 6 person raft, flip it upside down with everyone falling out into the water, then get back in and return to the shore. Anxious faces moved from Masato to the snow capped peaks surrounding the Alpine lake and back again to make sure he was serious.
He was, and with a lot of cheers from spectators lining the shore, teams took on the challenge with brave faces before returning shivering the the shore. From there it was off to the abseil where athletes had to prove they could descend a rope independently, all under expert eye of the guides.
After competencies were completed, the remainder of the day was reserved for teams to explore the town, shop and make last minute packing changes. Hakuba, a famous ski resort that hosted the winter olympics in 1998 is relatively quiet and a lot of restaurants are closed. One cafe, named Lucky Pete’s, did open to allow teams in, but they only served coffee and beer. This was perfect for Jon Ander, Spaniard from team Columbia Vidaraid who looked quite relaxed drinking alternately from the espresso and beer placed before him. The proprietor, Pete, was excitedly offering discounts on beers for teams at the end of the race. He also added a throw away line that only World Champions were able to dance on the bar (you feel Hakuba may be home to a few as it has a ski jump in it’s school yard). Jon did look up as someone explained that Jon had placed second twice in the World Championships. Pete replied with a nod “maybe this year”. Jon replied slowly with a slight frown on his face clearly envisioning the race in Reunion. “Maybe …. but it’s going to be a hard one” pause….. “Actually they have all been hard”.
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Released 13 June 2018 by Louise Foulkes, Adventure Racing World Series