Hot Wheels and High Fives – The Prologue
As teams approached the village of Hell Bourg, the venue for the stat and prologue they got their first real look at the vertiginous scenery of Reunion. The buses took them up switchbacks into the mountains with vertical green walls studded with waterfalls either side of them - this was what they’d come for and tomorrow they will somehow trek across these volcanic ancient craters to start the race.
First there was the flag parade and prologue to take part in and they were taken to the football stadium above the town (I checked it is a flat) to leave their packs and prepare. Flags were handed out and a local band struck up some cheerful tunes then lead the way down into town.
The town is known as one of the most beautiful in Reunion (and in France) and they passed small wooden shops and houses with carved verandas and tropical gardens full of giant palms and ferns. There were supporters all along the route and the teams were already paired up with a local child, proudly wearing their own race bib and ready to run in the prologue with their team.
This began on the edge of town and the race would be the local children’s pastime of ‘Kours La Rou’, running with a small car tyre and guiding it with two large sticks. The race said the children had been training for their run in the World Champs and it soon became clear some were as competitive as the teams! The advice was to put some soapy water into the tyre rim (which they just happened to have handy) and soon racers were practicing up and down the road.
It was all in fun, but there was a competitive edge as teams will start tomorrow in 30 second intervals based on the prologue result, so the last will be 30 minutes behind the first. The top teams don’t want to lose a second, or be behind other teams on narrow trails or ropes, so they wanted to do well.
The course was a short relay, with one stage for each of the racers and on the final stage all the team ran in with their new team mate for the day. Some of these were too fast for the teams to keep up with and others struggled with their tyre and needed a bit of help along the way. (Avaya got off to a tricky start with a photographer being run over by Chris Forne and Nathan Fa’avae did say it was ‘a bit random’. Their team mate was one of the smaller children so they probably didn’t do so well.)
With the band playing and a sizeable crowd there to cheer the teams in there was a great atmosphere at the finish line and the teams enjoyed the company of the children. There high fives, hugs and team photos all round and it’s a day the town and children will remember for a long time.
Teams sat out at the cafes nearby and the ice cream store was busy, and they then had time to explore the town before returning to the stadium for a local meal provided by the town. They will sleep there tonight, all together in the town gym and they’ve all been given a mat to put on the floor.
It won’t be the most comfortable night, but will be the same for everyone as those savvy teams who booked B&B’s were told they had to cancel (and would be refunded). With what lies ahead maybe would they would not have slept much wherever they were for the night ...
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