Raid Gaspesie 2019 - Thank You And Goodnight!
And so, the famous Raid International Gaspesie is complete. After six years, the organisation is moving on - hopefully to pastures new, maybe to races and formats new, but for now it's time to reflect on what has gone before.
Since it's first edition back in 2014, the Raid Gaspesie has been a popular and oft talked about fixture on the world calendar. While supported, multi-day stage racing seems to have declined around the world, Gaspesie stuck to its guns and has brought a fun, fast, furious style of racing with it.
The evening camps always seem to foster a community spirit to the race, helped by the friendly volunteers staff and organisation, which I think is part of what makes stage racing special. The race is fast, no doubt about it; the network of ATV trails and gravel roads has meant the pace stayed high on the bike sections, but the canoe stages and some steep, technical, difficult trekking have evened out the score a little.
What the region lacks in absolute altitude, it makes up for in short steep jabbing climbs, and the course design has made the most of this, though some racers on the final day seemed to want to ride their bikes more than push them, for some reason. The man-made MTB trails from the top of Mont St Joseph gave them their wish, as long as they had the confidence.
That said, the 'supported' format is not without its issues, environmental concerns and sufficient well arranged parking space at transitions being one of the biggest problems. The course planners and marshalling volunteers have made the most of the open space just behind the more populated shoreline area and taken racers and their support crews relatively short distances to transition points which opened up some remote feeling but surprisingly accessible areas.
That accessibility is something else that has put the name of 'Gaspesie' more firmly on the map. While flying to the region with a bike might be tricky (the flights to the nearest regional airports of Bathurst, Gaspe and Moncton are all serviced by smaller planes that don't have a lot of load space), Carleton-sur-Mer is within a day's steady drive from Montreal, so a realistic travel time given a day either side of a trip. I don't think I'll be alone in never having heard of the region before I came to the race for the first time in 2015, but I've been more and more amazed with the region and discovering what Gaspesie is all about, its landscape and its people.
Those more enlightened than me might well be aware of the area's diverse but turbulent history, and the Raid organisation has always sought to weave a little of that into the event. The Gaspesie region has an amazing backstory and a depth of culture, from the indigenous Mi'gmaq through to the Acadian settlers, the battle of Restigouche, the Great Expulsion and onwards to more settled times. Friday evening's welcome at the Mi'gmaq powwow ground was beautiful, and managed that difficult task of introducing local history and culture without it feeling forced or contrived.
The race feels like a part of the place, with locals turning out to cheer and support, opening up their properties for checkpoint locations, handing out food and drink. We've been sent some video which we'll share of racers running through the back yard of a local Mi'gmaq resident, Tim Barnaby, with a note that says "They came through my camp in Listuguj, was nice to see this going on. I just bought this camp and this was my first day sleeping there. Guy who sold it to me said "It's very quiet place". Next morning we got 100 people running through it ..."
The other history of the region is the history of the race itself, and that's something we'd touched on when we talked about the Youth Prologue. Adventure Racing can't survive without new people coming in to the sport and while big, brutal, expedition races are an aspiration for some, they're the epitome of hell for others.
The Youth Prologue at the Raid has introduced new people, young students and, periperally, their families to what 'Adventure Racing' means. We'd mentioned the racers that participated in the first prologue as students in 2014 only to race in the main race this year, there's also the small matter of the 19 year-old French team, O'Bugey Raid Kigau, who put the frighteners on the top teams with a blistering performance on Day One, and kept pushing the pace right to the finish.
And at the other end of history, there's the local teams Les GalopeuXtrêmes who have raced at all six editions, winning the 150km at the first and racing through the full 300km for the final edition - that perseverance and local input has encouranged several other Gaspesien teams to come and see what it's all about, and hopefully they will continue to participate on the world stage.
And, with that participation in mind, we come to the final results. The headlines are:
300 km category:
1st place: Sani-Sable L.B Inc (Antony Audet / Arnaud Mercier)
2nd place: Les Charlots – Innergex (Antoine Moses / Raphaël Arsenault)
3rd place: LFG/Chope-sur-Mer (Jean-Michel Landry / Sylvain Porlier)
1st Female: Rhéal Pitre Sports/Gym Amplitude (Audrey Bastien / Marianne Desrosiers)
1st Mixed: Jarrets noirs volants (Alexandre Beaudry / Édith Pépin)
150 km category:
1st place: Pabok (Rémi Castilloux / Alex Clément)
2nd place: Volkswagen et KIA New Richmond (Benoit Bujold / Antoine Barriault)
3rd place: MONDIAS Natural (Marc Leblanc / Raphaël Cyr)
1st Female: Les dorées Physiothérapie Amplitude (Corine Garceau-Bolduc / Marie-Pier Cayouette)
1st Mixed: Pharmacie Brunet Marie Dunn (Alexandra Audet / Charles-Émile LeBlanc)
There was also a special 'Spirit of the Race' award, after suggestions and notes from the volunteers and race staff, given to team Paris-Montréal (Bruno and Virginie Lequenne) as the nicest, friendliest, most helpful of the teams in transitions. Full results are also available at http://www.raidinternationalgaspesie.com/raid-wpmu/resultats/
And that, as they say, is all. Many thanks to organisers Endurance Aventure for inviting us to cover the event, thanks to you all for following, and we look forward to seeing what comes next.