Racing along a beach in the dark on Reunion Island at the last Adventure Racing World Championships 400 Team (France) and Team AR Sweden were side by side, racing to the finish line after the all-conquering Team Avaya, who were already 6x World Champions. They were racing for second and third positions, for pride and prize money, but mostly because neither would dream of slowing down until they had given their all and crossed the finish line.
What they didn’t know at the time was that the outcome would help determine which team would claim the world #1 in the ARWS ranking almost a year later …
After a grueling 460km race and 6 days of non-stop competition the Swedes arrived at the finish a step ahead to take second place, and a disappointed 400 Team placed 3rd. On the finish line, Nicholas Seguin said, “They passed us maybe 20 seconds from the finish, just 20 seconds, right over there.”
As a result, the Swedes claimed 30 more ranking points than their French rivals, and when the latest revision of the ARWS rankings was made they took the #1 position as the top-ranked adventure racing team on the planet … just 5 points ahead of 400 Team!
The top spot was up for grabs as Avaya has not raced an AR World Series qualifier in the past year, and the rankings are calculated over a 2 year cycle to reward consistency. The Kiwis have slipped to 3rd in the rankings now behind two teams who compete more regularly, and who are often very closely matched. AR Sweden and 400 Team raced closely at the previous World Champs in the USA and were second and third at Raid Gallaecia earlier this year.
Avaya’s last two World Champs wins give them a total of 500 ranking points, but 400 Team now have 506 and Team AR Sweden 511. With this year’s AR World Champs canceled after the bombings in Sri Lanka it may be difficult for Avaya to regain top spot and, unless they race a qualifier again, to even maintain 3rd place when the rankings are revised in 5 months time.
Looking ahead AR Sweden may not hold their #1 ranking for long either if they don’t race again soon. Points for their second place at the 2018 World Champs will fall out of the two-year cycle at the next revision and 400 Team have scored more often and are scheduled to compete in the Patagonia Raid, which is the first ARWS event of 2020 (taking place next February).
At the moment however, the Swedish team can enjoy their #1 position, earned over many years of competition and despite some health challenges, a bit of bad luck, and remarkably, the lack of a current sponsor. (For many years they raced as Haglofs Silva, but when this deal came to an end they switched to Team AR Sweden at ARWC Reunion.)
They have been racing since 2002 and kept a more consistent team than most, with Bjorn Rydvall, Robert Lindberg, Aaron Prince, Josefina Wikberg and Mattias Nystrom as the core members. They were the last team to beat Avaya (then Seagate) in World Series racing and as long ago as 2011 they finished second in the World Championships. Since then they have had two World Champs where Wikberg has had bike crashes forcing the team to withdraw and Nystrom has taken some time out from the pressures of international competition (returning this year for Raid Gallaecia.)
Rydvall too had time out to come to terms with his Type 1 diabetes diagnosis, and incredibly to find a way to race the most unpredictable and physically demanding of sports again. And not just to compete again, but at the very highest level and to lead his team to the #1 world ranking.
Another team coming back up the rankings are the former #1 ranked Team Columbia Vidaraid (Spain) who have now ranked 4th ahead of the Swedish Armed Forces Team. SWECO of Sweden are now 12th after their second place at ITERA in Scotland so there are 3 Swedish teams in the top 12. ITERA was won by French team Lozere Team2Raid who are now ranked 9th, so there are also 5 French teams in the top 20.
The top-ranked US team remains MRC Mainnerve (#10) and one place behind them are Movistar Terra Aventura of Ecuador who are now the top-ranked South American team. With this year’s races now all counted, including the ARWS Demonstration races which receive 30% of the points of a full qualifier, there are now a total of 415 teams who have taken part in ARWS races around the world.
The next revision of the ARWS races will take place in March 2020, and you can see the full rankings list at http://arworldseries.com/rankings/.
Photographers: Kirsten Oliver, Enrique Blanco, Honza Zak, Rob Howard