Expedition Africa 120km Parys

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Team Songlines Holds on to Win at Expedition Africa Parys

Press Release / 31.05.2021Live TrackingSee All Event Posts Follow Event
Team Songlines celebrate on the finish line
Team Songlines celebrate on the finish line / © Expedition Africa

On Saturday morning, 26 cold, but excited, teams stood under the start arch on the banks of the Vaal River ready to take on the third race of the ARWS Africa Series.

The race organisers had plotted a 120km course that zigzagged in and out of beautiful pockets of thornveld, through private game reserves, around and over small and big rocky kopies (small hills) and down the mighty Vaal River - all of which was just a stone’s throw from the town of Parys.

Team Songlines toed the start line with most of the country’s top Adventure Racing teams alongside - all eager to consolidate or improve their positions on the ARWS Africa series rank. For this race Team Songlines was made up of regulars Owen Gandar, Tamika Gandar and Kelvin Trautman and new to the fold, Andrew Houston - no stranger to AR and a regular podium chaser at many endurance events Andrew came as a huge asset to the team.

The start was relatively late in the morning, at 08h30, which everyone was grateful for as the early morning temps hovered around -2 degrees. Leg 1 was a 7km trek through a local game farm, which was more like a game viewing trek than a race. “As we traversed the purpose built hiking trails we stumbled past big eland on rocky hillsides and giraffe and zebra in the valley grasslands” said Kelvin.

Although the temperatures were cold the pace was predictably hot with the youngsters of Team Balega setting the early tempo. On one of the rocky trails Owen had a small fall and twisted his ankle - not ideal at any time, but particularly not at the start of a 12 hour/120km AR.

Despite this Team Songlines came into T1 together with most of the top teams.  They managed to get onto the kayak leg - a 20km paddle down a medium to low level Vaal River – first, and for the next 2+ hours worked hard to make a 10 minute gap on Team Cyanosis, who were now alone in second.

A fresh headwind on this leg made it cold and by the time the team came into T2 there was lots of teeth chattering. Owens’ ankle had swelled considerably by now too, and the prospects of the next 16km trek and swim leg were a little grim.  He soldiered on though, as the team took on a trek route that saw them swim across the Vaal River twice (cue more teeth chattering), bushwhack to some remote and thorny checkpoints, swipe through a number of spider clogged paths, and finally up a tricky route finding section to Tshwane Bush Camp and T3.

Songlines came in first here, but were soon joined by a charging Cyanosis.  "Enjoy the four hour time trial" quipped race organiser Stephan Muller, as the teams left transition.

The race was certainly on and the prospects of cycling the last leg, a 76km bike through the flat farmlands south of Parys, together was both exciting and daunting.  For the next three odd hours both teams exchanged the lead, neither able to make a definitive break.  Owens ankle was holding up, and as the hills near the finish came into view a bunch sprint to grab line honours seemed inevitable. It was great racing.

With about 3kms to go, and now in the dark, Team Songlines, spearheaded by the ever consistent Tamika, managed to make a small gap. The team put their heads down and, to the sound of vuvuzelas and cheering from the always bubbly Expedition Africa crew, the team crossed the finish line ahead Cyanosis by just over a minute. To be separated by this small margin after 10 hours of racing was phenomenal.

A big shout out to Cyanosis as a number of their team had competed in 200 mile running and cycling events the weekend before, so it was a monumental effort from them.  To all the teams that took on Parys AR, a hearty congrats and much respect.

Songlines are now looking forward to a 250km race in Montagu as part of the A1 Series in June and then a welcome break from racing until September.

A huge thanks again to Expedition Africa, for all their hard work in putting on this race and ARWS Africa Series - they are continually pumping life into our beloved sport and we’re always grateful for this.

Also a big thanks to Rory Scheffer from Mountain Room Media and Events, who followed the team with camera in hand documenting the race.

Lastly, and not least, thanks to our team partners, Hammer Nutrition SA, Salomon, and Privateer for their continued support.

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