Raid International Gaspesie 2019 - And Now, The End Is Near ...
The final day of the final Raid Gaspesie ... sob.
As is normal for the RiG, the last day was a very early start, with the 300km racers kicking off at 05:30 and the 150km at 06:30. Since the longer course racers and their support teams had been up even earlier, there was very little chance of the 150km-ers getting any sort of a lie-in, since they were all camped in the same field above Les Arpents Verts.
The morning seemed to hold some promise: while cool, it wasn't overwhelmingly cold, and while overcast, the few whisps of low cloud seemed content to remain hanging around the hillside rather than precipitating on the start line. At the sound of the horn, the 300km departed at pace on foot - save for the one team who came back to the line realising they hadn't had their GPS tracker activated by the start line team (this despite repeated calls over the tannoy ...)
Unlike the previous two days, there was no big open paddle stage to start with, instead the early part of the race was dominated by a long trek section up a steep and slippery canyon, and unfortunately the clouds had decided to come down off the hilltops and join in proceedings.
As the teams made their way slowly upwards, first up ATV trail, then following the stream bed, then up a trackless bushwhack out of the valley bottom towards the wind farm that generates a good percent of the energy for this area. As the clouds had descended, there was no way to sight off the turbines, and their whooshing hum in the claggy, murky morning made for a disorientating soundtrack. The greatest navigational sound, of course, became the cheering of the support crews waiting at the first transition - they began cheering when O'Bugey Raid popped out first, having put their navigational skills to good use out of the river valley and pushed hard to try and regain a podium place after losing nearly an hour to the leaders yesterday.
Collecting their bikes, the climb for the racers wasn't done yet despite the 500 metres of vertical ascent they'd just trudged through. The next mainly non-technical MTB stage took them on a tour of the wind farm and up another hundred metres, before a fast ride back down, dodging support traffic on the main gravel road back towards Carleton and then off to a non-assisted bike drop for a short rogaine, with a bit more bushwhacking for good measure.
Then it was onwards to the summit of Mont St Joseph, which (on a clear day) overlooks Carleton. Unfortunately, with the cloud down so far it wasn't oveloooking anything but mist for most people. The short ropes section, a zipline across between two rocky promontaries, was made more complicated by an inability to see the landing from the take-off!
With the finish line in sight, at least metaphorically, the descent from Mont St Joseph could start, and the first part of this was a relatively new, purpose built mountain bike trail dropping from by the summit Chapel through bermed turns, dropoffs and jumps, paying off the 500+ metres of height gain. Some racers relished the opportunity - the local teams especially, since most of them know the trail by heart - but others moved more hesitantly through the technical features, either for want of confidence or energy, we're not sure which.
The drop from the bikes took the teams all the way to the foreshore in the 'suburban' end of Carelton-sur-Mer, to finish as the other days had started, with a canoe leg. Five kilometres this time, tracking along the shoreline with a stiff side wind that had picked up. There was originally intended to be a short out-and-back paddleboard stage after the canoe, but the wind stopped play, so instead the teams canoed to a point just short of the finish line and ran the short distance to cross the line, in front of a large crowd of spectators and support teams.
The looks of elation, where they were visible under the mud splatter, were telling, and all of the finish line interviews seems to contain the words 'wild' and 'an amazing journey', which seems pretty well in keeping with the race. The fresh pretzels from a local bakery and cold beer from the local brewery seemed to go down pretty well too, from the first 150km to cross the line right down to the final teams off the course.
The Lanterne Rouge award went to the two US/Canadian teams of Juste PRESQUE Perdus - Athena Adventures (1 & 2). They missed out the canoe and came straight to the line by bike, riding along the street in bright sunshine, having been one of the few teams late enough in the day to get a view from the ropes course. And they would have been able to see the finish line!
We'll have full results as part of a wrap-up report once the prize giving has finished, but for tonight at least, it's goodbye from Gaspesie.