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Changes and Challenges As Teams and the Race Adapt

Rob Howard / 25.09.2021See All Event Posts Follow Event
Dutchables AR complete the paddle on the Douro River
Dutchables AR complete the paddle on the Douro River / © Wladimir Togumi -

The second night at Norcha was a frustrating and tiring one for the lead teams as they descended into the Douro river canyon in the dark.  They were wearing their PFD’s and helmets, and carrying paddles and packs, descending a steep, rocky and overgrown canyon wall to reach their kayaks – but they couldn’t find them.

It was extremely difficult to find a way down, but when they reached the river there was no sign of the kayaks, which had been towed upstream by the race. The first 4 teams to arrive searched along the rocky bank, often climbing up and down again, and even going all the way back up to ask the marshals for instructions, but still the kayaks couldn’t be found.

“It was terrible,” said Ruben Mandure, “we were searching and searching for 4 hours on difficult and quite dangerous ground and we got down to the river but there was nothing to see. After we went back up to the marshals for the third time they agreed the position of the kayaks was wrong on our maps. It was about 500m out.”

Hayke Everwijn from The Dutchables said, “We were looking and looking and getting frustrated and angry because we wanted to keep on the full course.  We had been doing well and were pleased with our position and worried that now we might be out of the race.

“After about 5 hours we were exhausted and went back up and were told about the problem with the map and that we were still in the race, would get time compensation, and would be transported to the next transition. Then we were happier and we slept in transition for a few hours before biking.” 

This team is a lot less experience than those they are with, so they were more concerned by the situation affecting their race status, whereas Bruno Rey and Rueben Mandure, with so many races in the careers, knew the race would adapt to situation which was out of the racers’ control.

All the teams affected had a mandatory stop at the next transition in Miranda do Douro while the race reset to accommodate the changes and other teams were re-routed to ride there.  The race restarted with Alpha Dental leaving at 03.40 and Uruguay Ultra Sports at 3.52, presumably to account for the time difference at TA7 and to effectively neutralise stage 8.  Dutchables left at 4.38 and On Sight of Poland at 05.31.

They set off on a shortened ride as CP’s 38, 39 and 40 were taken out of the course to reduce the next stage to 20km and this took them to the second paddle in the Douro National Park. Fortunately, the race had sufficient kayaks, despite some now being stranded further upriver, and the teams could paddle in daylight and enjoy some stunning views of the canyons and cliffs which separate Portugal and Spain.

“It was a really beautiful paddle,” said Hayke Everwijn, “and our spirits are improved now as we had a good ride and enjoyed the paddle, and we think we are back to our position before last night.”

Uruguay Ultra Sports set off on the next 34km trek with Reuben Mandure barefoot and Lali Moratorio with just several pairs of socks on her feet.  They’d left footwear in bike transition boxes which they’d expected to access on the previous stage, but they’d not been available.  They seemed quite accepting of such a daunting prospect and Mandure said he trains in bare feet anyway.

The problem didn’t affect Alpha Dental and by the time Dutchables arrived the required boxes had been moved around for them.  The logistics team which brought the boxes round then drove to find the Uruguayans and delivered shoes to a relieved team.

To make the trek even more difficult heavy rain has set in again and the route climbs to the highest point of the race before finishing at the town of Mogadouro.  When Alpha Dental got to the summit at the Santuario de Nossa Senhora da Assuncao (950m) it was wreathed in mist and Andreas Vikstrom was limping with sore feet, while others in the team carried his pack.  Bruno Rey, who had a more difficult day yesterday in the heat , said being with this team was “making him younger”.

Behind the leaders teams are now moving through the transition at Miranda Do Douro, which is set up in the old town near the cathedral. It is one of the most picturesque transition locations of the race, and teams were due to complete an orienteering stage around the old town, but that has sadly been cut from the course.

The Afterwork Athletes team rode into the TA mid morning, but with a new line up.  Daniel Murphy became ill yesterday afternoon and had to pull out along with his wife Helen, which left Paul Boakes and Rob Smart to continue.  They picked up Steph Gibbins (from the retired Highroad Adventure team) at TA7 where she had been hoping to join a team.  As luck would have it she could join up with two other UK racers to make the most of the racing opportunities in what is her first race.

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