Raid Gaspesie 2019 - When The Rains Come
So, while Day One was warm, sunny and long, Day Two of the Raid InternationalGaspesie was cold, wet and short.
The weather at the start was cool and overcast, with both racers and many members of the crew marvelling at how flat the sea was for the opening paddle leg, with Daniel Poirier noting that it hadn't been like that when they'd recce'd the route. Like yesterday the race started with a run and a long canoe leg, though this time the paddle was along the coast of the Miguasha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for it's fossils (We're pretty sure none of the racers went fossil hunting, and that the slower times along the paddle stage were more related to technique and pace issues rather than paleontological pauses...)
Of course, in any good Adventure Race, the payoff for a flat calm first stage is invariably a sacking great big hill or two in the second, and the racers got that in spades. The rain had begun as they came off the water at the Migusha National Park centre (where the journalists availed themselves of the coffee) and meant the gravel roads and ATV tracks the riders needed to climb to get into them there hills got very, very slippery, very very quickly.
The top layers of (presumably) sedimentary mud became saturated in no time, leaving a half inch of molten clay on the surface, just ripe to cause wheel and foot slippage while the riders made their way from sea level up 200m vertical in under a kilometre of riding to the first bike CP on a hilltop lookout point.
That initial shove out of the way, the racers could relax and enjoy the descents a little, assuming their brakes still worked, down to valley level to wade with their bikes through the Nouvelle River. The crossing was short and shallow, with an easy step-up out of the river onto the banks. Unfortunately for one unassuming cycle-tourist, spectators had gathered very close to his tent, and their noise attracted the racers towards them as an exit point. Probably the most disturbed late-morning's lie-in they've had in a long time.
Once out of the river, the next point of note was the town of Nouvelle itself, where at CP7 there was a handup of food available. Grapefruit segments, home-made cookies, and local salmon blinis aren't typical race foods, but all seemed to be gratefully received by the racers who partook, though a number bolted past and seemingly didn't see the nice lady offering them a tray of cookies - racing focus does strange things to people.
Depositing their bikes not long after, still under incessant rain, the racers began the first run/trek section, again, predominantly uphill. The route started along ATV trails up a valley basin, before another steep wrench up to the hilltop transition near the ancient village of Vieux-St-Louis.
Once they'd recollected their bikes, the riders and racers made their way round throigh the old village and over to another lookout CP, unfortunately not looking out to much except for mist and cloud, though the owner had lit a brazier nearby, put some tunes on from a CD player under his decking, and offered the race TV crew an umbrella to shelter under while filming.
The racers, unfortunately, were getting pretty cold by this point and just opted to keep moving, though that was sometimes easier said than done, with Christine Isabelle from mixed pair MLCO Groupe Aventure saying that her hands were so cold, she'd lost the use of her thumbs on the ride and was having to push her gear shifters with the heel of her palms instead.
Unfortunately for her, there was more wet stuff to come down on the coast, as they descended back through the lanes and trails towards Saint-Omer. The next section was explained to us at the pre-race briefing as "trek/swim/wade", but was mainly the trek and wade rather than swim.
Five checkpoints around a 'barachois' - a small coastal lagoon, near the Saint-Omer Bird Sanctuary, at least two legs of which involved a steady trudge through the waist-deep silty water of the lagoon. There was one fun payoff, though: CP20 had been placed in a small park, the Parc la Grande-Envolee. In particular, it had been placed at the top of one of the slides in the childrens playground.
It was a somewhat incongrous sight to see lycra-clad racers wade, shivering, out of a muddy lagoon then go for a quick slide trip in the playground, big silly grins on their faces, before trotting off along the muddy foreshore. There was more fun at the end of that foreshore as well, as like the prologue, they'd been instructed not to cross over the main road, so the only option was to crawl through a narrow culvert under the tarmac near the transition.
Of course, like all good stage races, their had to be a sting in the tail after all this 'fun'. The final bike leg took the riders uphill again, to a bike drop and short bushwhack out-and-back, then down to the outdoors centre of Les Arpents Verts and a couple of rope activities (a Tyrolean bridge and a zipline) preceded the cruelest of final jabs - a 20 metre, near 45 degree gully ramp up to the finish run-in, justified by Jean-Thomas Boily with the word "you add an 'e' to Raid and you get 'raide', which means 'steep' in French..."
No racers even attempted to ride this, with one of the racers from local team Sport Expert Carleton declaring that they'd "spent enough time today pushing my bike. That's not biking ...", though they did say it with a smile on their face.
In the 300km race, both the French team O'Bugey Raid and the Brazilian Brou Aventuras slowly slipped in the cumulative rankings over the later stages of the day, allowing Sani-Sable L.B. Inc to take top step on the podium with a cumulative time of 14:55:18, with Les GalopeuXtrêmes 34:02 behind them and Les Charlots - Innergix just 1:31 back. Rhéal Pitre Sport/Gym Amplitude top the Female 300km race, with Jarets Noirs Volants the leading Mixed 300km team.
In the 150km race, the top step of the podium stays as it was at the end of day one, with Pabok leading in a cumulative 11:09:00. the lower steps have switched though, with Volkswagen et Kia New Richmond in second place 17:41 down and MONDIAS Natural a touch under 6 minutes back. Les dorées Physiothérapie Amplitude take the lead in the Female 150km, with Pharmacie Brunet Marie Dunn leading the Mixed category
Despite the conditions, and regardless of their placing, all of the racers looked happy to be finished and warming back up, with the organisation providing lovely stew and a warm campfire as a focus for the evening!