Having lead for much of the race, and with a big lead over any chasing teams, Team Naturex of France crossed the finish line at Koti Resorts near Shimla just before sunrise this morning to win Expedition India 2019.
After a cold night they rode under the finish arch at 06.13 to celebrate a win in the first ever AR World Series race in India and the first of the year. Their winning time for the race was 69 hours (unofficially at the moment) and although the team didn’t know it, they were hours ahead of their nearest rivals Agde Raid Aventure (also of France).
After some photos, champagne and hugs the team settled in the reception of the resort where a table of foods was laid out for them. There were beers and lots of sweet biscuits but it was the paratha and veg dip that came from the kitchen they tucked into while talking about their race.
Romuald Viale did most of the talking in English and said the highlight of the race was the final trek. “It was everything an adventure race should be,” he said, “high mountains, snowing and hard navigation.”
He added, “For me the race could be longer, I am just starting to feel good today!” (The team said in some ways the race didn’t suit them as they have little rafting experience and prefer longer events, but it didn’t seem to affect their performance!)
I asked about their overnight stop on the final paddle and Viale told me. “We really thought we could beat the cut off for the dark zone, but didn’t make it and had to camp. We found a nice beach and built a fire so it was comfortable. Our guide didn’t know he might have to camp out but had to stay with us! We didn’t have much to share as our bag of camping gear wasn’t at the start of the paddle so he stayed close to the fire all night.
“After that we knew we had a lead and could win if we made no mistakes, but we didn’t know who was behind us so it was like starting the race again and we pushed hard to the end.
“We had to concentrate on the riding as you could get up speed and hit a hole, but otherwise it was all on roads with easy navigation. We only stopped to buy drinks but bought no food as we didn’t want to wait, and we had lots of our own food anyway. The rafting was hard, especially in those big 10 person boats which were so heavy.”
The win gets the team off to a great start to the year as far as World Series racing goes, and they have a big year planned. This team has won a place in Sri Lanka for the World Championships, and they have a big squad with teams entering Raid Gallaecia, Adventure Race Croatia and ITERA Scotland as well. “We want to get two teams to Sri Lanka,“ Viale said.
Now they have time to recover and get out and explore the amazing scenery around the resort as the race is open until Friday and teams don’t leave until Saturday. They arrived just in time for breakfast and even said they may go out riding today!
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