Raid in France 2015 was the final AR World Series qualification race before this year’s World Championships in Brazil, and took place ‘All Around Ain’ in the Rhone-Alpes regions of Eastern France.
The 2015 race was shorter than in previous years, limited to 3 days of non-stop racing, but it was as tough and technical as ever, and some very wet weather conditions tested the racers to their limits.
The race start/finish was at the town of Hautville-Lompes and from here the course took 2 large circuits, one to the west the other to the east, and allowed teams to return to the facilities at the town during the race as they switched from one to the other. The route profile was mountainous with 12,000m of ascent, and as always on the uncompromising Raid in France there were cut-offs teams had to hit or they would be ‘Shunted’ – that is taken forward on the course to continue.
Forty teams gathered for the start, including the World’s top ranked team Columbia Vidaraid, others from around Europe, one from the USA and the majority from the home nation, including Arverne Outdoor and Raidlight 400 (ranked 7th and 10th).
The start itself took place at midnight and from the outset the weather was difficult with the rain making navigation in the forest at night doubly hard, so it took teams much longer to cross the Hauteville plateau than expected. Up to 6 times as long in the case of some teams which were well and truly lost!
Emerging from the forest the teams undertook an SUP (Stand Up Paddle) section on Lake Nantua, and this is a new discipline which is increasingly popular in adventure racing. They were then trekking again, up the impressive cliffs of Grande Roche before mountain biking into the department of Jura and kayaking for nearly 40km on Lake Coiselet.
In the early stages it was the top French teams leading along with the experienced R’ADYS Team Switzerland and with Columbia Vidaraid a little further back. The weather remained wet at times, and this caused the cancellation of stages moving into day 2, a huge disappointment to both the teams and to the organisers who had worked hard to set them up, but had to put safety first.
The leading teams made it through the Canyon Fouge with difficulty during the second night of the race, but by morning the water levels had risen quickly and the race had to cancel 3 stages; the kayaking between Coiselet and Camp de Thol, Canyon de la Fouge and the 60m rope ascent at the waterfall at Charabotte.
Teams were moved forward at this stage and those at the back were being ‘shunted’ onto easier routes to keep up with the race, which was intensely competitive at the front and was being intently followed around the world via the live YB satellite tracking.
The route continued onto the second loop from Hauteville-Lompnes, starting with a long mountain bike ride into the Haute Jura and by the time teams reached a rowing section on the Rhone at Fort de l’Ecluse, undertaken in traditional 4 person rowing boats, Columbia Vidaraid had moved into the lead.
For the remaining stages it looked like they would hold the lead to the finish but they spent a long time looking for a checkpoint which had gone missing in the forest on the final bike ride and were subsequently passed by 400 Team Raidlight.
The team of Sébastien Raichon, Sandrine Beranger, Nicolas Seguin and Romuald Viale crossed the line as winners in a time of 81 hours 46 minutes for the 380km course, and in the process took their 3rd Raid in France title.
On the finish line an emotional Raichon said; “What a scenario – to win on the final stage!”
The French team will now join other teams from around the world at the AR World Championships in the Pantanal region of Brazil in November, where they will again be racing against Columbia Vidaraid and current world Champions, team Seagate of New Zealand.
The next race in the series is the XPD Expedition Race from August 3rd to 14th in Australia. You can find out more about the AR World Series at www.arworldseries.com
Photo Credit: JJ Raynal