Expedition India closed with the race party and prize giving last night after 5 days of extraordinary adventure racing. The party had a special Indian flavour, and not just with the dishes in the buffet meal which was set out on the lawns of Koti Resorts, but with teams wearing local dress – or versions of them anyway!
Some just wore their embroidered circular Kullu caps, others had gone to much greater lengths. Thunderbolt looked sharp in their whlte linen suits, and had even found some ‘Thunderbolt’ branded beer on sale. Bend Racing had visited some up-market shops in the Shimla Bazaar and were sporting brightly coloured, tailored sequin jackets, while the men of Vaucluse Aventures had Kullu dress down to a tee with their caps and woollen waistcoats over white shirts and pants. The ladies had brightly coloured saris, dresses and shoes and there was even a flower covered ‘photo both’ for some unique after race photos.
Most of the teams had finished racing a day or two ago so there had been time for resting up, sight-seeing and shopping, and the racers were relaxed and ready to party. The disco dancing got going early and the music had to be stopped so everyone could be called into the hotel for the race film, slide show and prize giving.
Heidi Muller spoke from the heart and said the race was organised to bring everyone together for a unique adventure and for the trip to be a complete experience of Incredible India from start to finish. She also said it wasn’t a commercial enterprise, but about the adventure racing lifestyle and people who come together to take part, which is why the Kinetic Events tagline and theme is; “It’s all about love”. She urged everyone to go home and continue to be exceptional in their everyday lives and jobs.
Before the teams came on stage Heidi and Stephan called the race volunteers and media team onto the stage to thank them. There were only a dozen in total, which is an incredibly small and dedicated team to hold together such a difficult race to organise. (The volunteer marshals had manned transitions on their own for days in some difficult conditions and at one time 5 TA’s were open at once.)
Then the teams were called on stage one at a time to receive their medals, all holding their national flags, and team media were with them and given medals too, which was a nice touch.
The final leaderboard showed 20 teams crossed the finish line, of which 12 were full course. (Team Himalayan Baby Wolf completed the course, but failed to find 2 CP’s on the way.) One way or another all the teams who started made it to the finish line with the exception of the unlucky Bend Racing who had to retire due to illness. Now recovered they were called up on stage first and given their medals with the remaining teams then being called up in finish order or depending how much of the course they’d completed.
All 8 Indian teams recorded a finish, a fantastic achievement as they really had no idea how to prepare or quite what the race would demand of them. They all showed great heart and endurance to persevere to the finish and will hopefully be the standard bearers for Adventure Racing in India going forward.
Of the 12 international teams finishing 5 were from France, including the top two, and the top 10 included teams of 7 nationalities. Of these one of the loudest standing ovations on the night was for the Nepali Army team, who finished 9th, completing the full course with almost no prior experience and poor equipment. Their quiet demeanour endeared them to everyone, and their determination and performance were one of the highlights of the race.
The top 3 teams all received large gold trophies (the winners being the biggest of course) and at the end of the night stood on stage together to another standing ovation from their fellow races. Sebastien Raichon spoke briefly for race winners Naturex, thanking Stephan and Heidi Muller (as others had earlier) and the family of adventure racers who came together for the race.
And so Expedition India 2019 came to a close. The disco started up again with dancing into the night and with the majority of teams leaving on the 11 hour bus ride back to Delhi at 04.30 in the morning it was time to get a very short night’s sleep before the final stage of a remarkable Expedition India journey.
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