Chasing Shadows in the Canyons
Teams slow down in the dark, but if it’s a Dark Zone they have to stop altogether as its deemed unsafe to continue. So beating the dark zone on the second stage of the race, pack rafting and trekking in the canyons that sweep down to the East coast from the mountains, has been the aim of the leading teams today. Any who didn’t make it through would fall well behind the lead pack, probably too far to hope to bridge the gap.
At the end of a tough day of racing it looks like 16 teams might have beaten the Dark Zone (maybe 17 depending on what is happening with the Swedish Armed Forces team. They appear to have stopped at the point where they could continue walking to the next transition, so maybe they fell just a little short.
Rolling back to the start of the day, those teams who made TA1 and could organise themselves to do so, left between 02.20 and 03.00 to trek down to the River du Mat, ready for the lifting of the dark zone at 05.15. On the way they had a 50m abseil and then a swim across a pool before reaching the river. They were starting the day wet, and they were going to be wet all day.
Deflating their rafts and carrying them where necessary the teams followed the river down to the coast, finding several checkpoints on the way down to CP8 at the town of La Riviere des Roches. And then ... they had to trek back uphill, their packs heavy with two rafts, paddles and helmets etc., to get to the top of the next canyon descent.
The end part of this trek was up the switchback road, which was particularly hard on sore and wet feet. The destination was CP9, a small picnic kiosk by the roadside and here teams were briefed to use the ropes put out for the descent down to the water, and to watch for warning signs for 3 difficult rapids. Here they were advised to either to stop and recce them, or to walk around.
The Swedish Armed Forces team all laughed when they heard this and said, “We will walk around!” Sam Clarke explained. “Our track record rafting so far is not good at all, and I’m much too familiar with the water already.” The team don’t have a lot of packrafting experience and had already broken a paddle, but luckily could supply another for them.
The trail down to the canyon wasn’t very clear on the maps or instructions and Haglofs Silva could not find it so they set off on a direct descent below a bridge. They returned some time later to take the right trail, somewhat shaken after getting into a dangerous position. Bjorn Rydvall said to me, “We got to a big fall and almost went off, it was nearly our last race!” They recovered well and beat the dark zone, but lost ground on the leaders.
The descent was an almost sheer scramble through the woods and Ryan Blair of The North Face Adventure Team (Hong Kong) said, “They must have put a kilometre of rope down there!” He added, “We like that technical stuff and can get a move on, which we did, but then came to 2 teams who wouldn’t let us past. We were worried about making the Dark Zone then but it all clicked on the water and we had a good day. It was great fun in all those rapids and we were really impressed with the pack raft handling.”
They too were among the break away group now and were in good spirits in Transition two, a floodlit football field in St. Benoit. The joked the weather was perfect for them, “it’s not hot at all!” Said Brazilian racer Camila Nicolau.
Not everyone had such a good day on the water. The Estonian ACE Adventure Team walked into CP10 while I was there, carrying one inflated raft and one now ripped and unusable. “We did it right at the start so have walked all the way,” they said. The coped well, got into the TA at nightfall and are currently in 7th place.
Those teams who didn’t get out of canyons and rivers covered by the dark zone before darkness fell will be camping by the riverside – but not too close in case of flash floods. (They have to be 8m up.) The restart in the morning but the time spent sleeping does not come off their 12 hour ‘Sleep Card’. A lot of teams will be doing this, and those at the back of field will be aiming to get into TA1 to get some sleep before they spend tomorrow on the pack raft stage.
[There have been 7 teams withdraw from either the race or a full ranking so far, and you can see these on the live and Raid in France websites. Those teams at TA1 have to leave by 13.30 tomorrow or they will be short coursed. They then have until 07.00 on Monday 12th to reach K12 to avoid another short course option.]
About The Author
More About ARWC 2018 - Raid in France
In 2016 I stepped away from top level adventure racing after winning the World Champs in Australia. The reasons were that I’d
The closing ceremonies for a remarkable 8 days of racing on Reunion Island took place at Village de Corail tonight. The beach
The last few days of bad weather on the Volcano have made the end of the race particularly hard for the teams at the back of the
The two Russian teams in the race approached the finish today, looking close together on the tracking map, but as they were both moving
More teams have been crossing the finish line of the AR World Championships this morning and I caught up with a couple of the teams with an
The 4th team to cross the finish line at this year’s AR World Champs was ‘Black Hill Salomon Opava Net’ from the Czech
The trek up and over the Piton de la Fournaise volcano is the centrepiece of this World Championship course and teams feel it’s the
You wouldn’t think it’s likely to have a sprint finish in an expedition adventure race, not after 5 days of brutal racing, on a
They said they were here to have fun and explore Reunion and that the result was secondary, that they had their doubts and were not
For the leading teams at ARWC 2018 on Reunion Island the end is almost in sight and the top five teams should finish sometime tomorrow
While the leaders paddle up the west coast towards an early morning finish tomorrow, a third of the teams in the race are still continuing
All of the action on day 4 took place on the East Coast of Reunion, but in some very different locations as the field spread out. The
This morning two teams, who camped out overnight on the River Marsouins, arrived at Transition two at the football field in Saint Benoit,
Losing mere minutes may have devastating consequences tomorrow. After an epic first leg of 106kms of mountain hiking and nearly 8000m of
Day two, and for all of the teams it was still about finishing the first leg of the race, the mighty 106km mountain trek. Most teams
On the morning of day 2 of the race I caught up with the Olympus Red Ants team from South Africa and briefly with the Merrell Adventure
Into the second day of the race the first stage continues as the teams travel through the 3 vast collapsed volcano craters which are such a
With teams running well ahead of the predicted fastest times the leaders arrived at CP4, at the swimming pool in the town of Cilaos before
Teams woke this morning to a fine morning at Hell Bourg, with daylight coming around 5.30am. Some said they’d been a little cold on
As teams approached the village of Hell Bourg, the venue for the stat and prologue they got their first real look at the vertiginous
I took the opportunity to talk to Race Director Pascal Bahuaud this morning in the race office, while all around us the Raid in France
As teams checked in for today’s race briefing they were given 3 sheets of paper with a course profile, a summary of the stages and a
The atmosphere at the race HQ for ARWC2018 is relaxed compared to most previous World Champs, but it would be hard to be anything else in
The team list for ARWC 2018-Reunion has 64 names on it. Some are there for the experience, some have won a place as a World Series race
SleepMonsters will be working with the ARWS on the live race coverage, and you can read all the stories and news from Rob Howard right here
In an expedition adventure race the competitors cram in so many intense experiences and emotions they lose track of time completely, the
Merrell Adventure Addicts will be lining up amongst the world’s finest Adventure Racing teams at the start inside an old volcano on
When Reunion Island was announced as the venue for the 2018 AR World Champs the response was most likely, ‘Where?’ followed by