Raid Gallaecia - The 2021 Adventure Racing World Championship

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Reunion in Gallaecia and a Wide Open Race for the World Title

Rob Howard / 30.09.2021See All Event Posts Follow Event
Team Yeti winners at Raid Gallaecia in 2019
Team Yeti winners at Raid Gallaecia in 2019 / © Raid Gallaecia

The Adventure Racing World Championships returns at Raid Gallaecia from October 2nd and after a three year hiatus teams are keen to race at the highest level again, and to meet up with  AR friends they’ve not seen for a couple of years. 

Remarkably, given the times we live in, 91 teams are registered and expected, including racers from 20 different nations.  There would have been more, and it would have been the biggest World Champs ever, had some teams not had to withdraw, but it’s still a huge race and will be a welcome reunion for the global adventure racing community

The most notable absence will be the defending World Champs, Team Avaya of New Zealand.  The Avaya/Seagate team has won the last 5 world titles, often by considerable margins.  They’ve been dominant and pretty much unbeatable.  (That said, the only time they raced in Gallaecia they came second to the Swedish team, then Haglofs Silva, now Orbital AR.)

They will be missed, as will other teams restricted from travelling, but the elite teams in the race line up will be thinking this is their chance to take a World title in Avaya’s absence.  They might not say it out loud, but they’ll be thinking it!  (All of the world top 10 ranked teams are there, apart from Avaya.)

There will be quite a few teams racing who have won multiple national and World Series titles, but never the world title, some with racers approaching the end of their elite racing careers, and they will be very, very hungry to win.

It’s going to be highly competitive, as befits a World Champs, and in Avaya’s absence it’s hard to pick a favourite, but these are some of the teams to watch out for.

For a sport with endless variables and where pretty much anything can happen, top level results are very predictable.  The quality of the top teams, and their ability to manage whatever happens better than those around them ensures that, so the AR World Series rankings are a good guide (even if they might be a bit skewed by the limitations of where teams have been able to race of late).

The world #1 team are currently 400 Team Naturex (France) who have raced an incredible 24 AR World Series races, won 4 times, and finished 3rd (by seconds) at the last World Champs on Reunion Island.  One of their wins was at Raid Gallaecia in 2017, they know the race well, and they will be fielding the same team which took 3rd in Reunion; Sebastien Raichon, Sandrine Beranger, Nicolas Seguin and Thomas Gaudion.

Raichon commented, “We are very motivated and hope to have long and technical treks again! We are preparing well for an open race due to the absence of the New Zealanders and we hope to have the form to race for the podium once more.”

400 Team Naturex at the Patagonia Raid

They will, however, be racing against one New Zealander, as World #2 team, Torpedo Vidaraid, includes Isla Smith, who lives in Madrid. The Vidaraid team have 25 World Series appearances, and a high percentage of those are wins – they’ve won 6 of their last 8 ARWS races. They’ve finished second twice in the World Champs and third as well, and won two of the qualifiers for this ARWC (Patagonia Raid and Expedition Oregon).  On their track record they are the team to beat.

They’ve had a lot of racers in the team over the years, and sometimes raced under US and Brazilian flags as a result, but for this race they are most definitely Spanish.   Urtzi Iglesias, Jon Ander Arambalza and Marco Amselem are the core of this powerful team, and they will hope to emulate the late, great Emma Roca and her Buff Thermocool team, who won the last World Champs in Spain for their country. 

Iglesias said, “We have prepared well for the race. Jon Ander, Isla and I have been able to race some adventure and orienteering races together in Spain (we won the Spanish Rogaining Championship in 2020), although it is true that we have never raced this four together in an expedition race.” He added, “We have competed in a few races in Galicia in our years as adventure racers, but we can't say that we race at home.”

World #3 are the Swedish team Orbital AR and if there’s any need to look for extra motivation they’ve been second in the World Champs four times!  (2011,2015,2017,2018). You have to go back to 2015 to find a World Series win for this team, but it was at Raid Gallaecia, and they raced here in 2019 as well – finishing second.  US racer Mari Chandler joins the team, fresh from a win at the USARA Nationals and her strength and experience boost the team’s chances of a win.

The SAFAT team in training

Team Captain Bjorn Rydvall said, “We are happy Mari can join us for this one.  The guys hope to manage to keep up with her.”  He added, “We hope to have a good race with not too many mistakes and as we already had the first snow in Sweden we hope for some chilly nights in Spain.”

They won’t be the only Swedish contenders as there are 3 other Swedish teams who qualified as winners of World Series races – which is impressive for a country with few adventure races.

The Swedish Armed Forces Team (#10 rank) won the Nordic Islands Adventure Race quite recently and they are sounding confident.  John Karlsson said, “Since NIAR we have trained specifically for ARWC and although you feel you can always do more, I have never felt so well prepared for a race.”

Team USWE were winners at Adventure Race Croatia, but they’ve had to make some late changes, bringing in skyrunner André Jonsson.  They were 4th at the recent European Champs in Denmark, which they used as a warm up event, and say they plan to race smart and push hard at the end.  The Greener Adventure Team, who won Expedition Africa Rodrigues, were at that race for preparation too (finishing 6th), also with a new racer in their line up, Marie Krysander.

(There is a strong team from the Nordic Islands Adventure Race too, led by Race Director Stefan Bjorklund, and the SWECO team, who have been ARWS podium finishers, are also entered … so Swedish racers are there in force.) 

The winners at that European Champs, which has proved so useful as a preparation race, were a team including 3 of the Estonia ACE Adventure – La Sportiva squad.  Ranked #4, they are very strong navigators and are usually in contention for the podium.  (There are some other strong Estonian teams too.)

In Denmark they were joined by Lars Bukkehave, who will be competing with the US team, Bend Racing.  He knows the race from being the ARWS referee in 2019 and is a regular on the Bend team, having been on their winning team at the Patagonian Expedition Race.  Bend is one of several strong US teams to watch for; Quest, Strong Machine Adventure Racing, and MRC Mac Parkman Foundation being the strongest. There hasn’t been a US winner at the World Champs since 2007, so they’d be bucking the trend if any of them were to win.

The BOA Brazil Multisport team winning Expedicion Guarani

Then there is the strong South American entry lead by the qualifiers from two of the World Series races there.  Movistar Terra Aventura won Huairasinchi in Ecuador only a couple of months ago and they’ve been one of the most successful teams from South America for many years and been world ranked as high as world #3.  (The second placed team at the recent Huairasinchi, Life Adventure Imptek, are also racing.)

The Bosi Adventure Team were the winners at the PC12 race in Colombia, and they are a experienced team, but have not raced outside South America before The team includes one of the younger racers in the competition, Juan Daniel Sanchex Uribe, who is one of the team navigators.

The winners from Expedicion Guarani are BOA Brazil Multisport and they’ve had an impressive year, winning ARWS South America regional races, as well as Guarani.  The team is lead by Camila Nicolau and her husband Gui Pahl is on the team along with former World Champion Nick Gracie from the UK, and Jonas Junkes, who is a late addition to the team.

Nicolau said, ”Taking the Brazilian flag to a World Championship is a very special moment for us, last time was in 2013 in Costa Rica when we got 6th place racing with Neil Jones. Brazil has a long history in the sport, but could never yet win a final, that’s a dream for us and we are working hard to achieve this objective!”

The contenders list is long already, but there are plenty more, including teams from Eastern Europe like Blizzard from Russia (who have won a World Series race) and Black Hill (Czechia) who have an incredibly consistent record of top level performance at ARWC. Then is the FMR team (French Mountain Raiders), who have also won a World Series race before. Watch out for them on the first stage, they might start quickly. They are one of 10 French teams racing.

We have not mentioned the other strong Spanish teams yet either, and they will have the advantage of being at home.  They will have been preparing with extra intensity and pride, and will race with added determination.  So often in the past, home country teams have exceeded expectations and blown away the form book.  The Track the Race team (named after the race tracking service) includes the only other former World Champion who is racing, Arnau Julia, who was on the winning team when Buff Thermocool won in 2010. The team also has Brazilian racer Mariana Pontes.  Other Spanish names to watch for are Endurance (formerly VK Bikes Raid), Keltoi Balaena and the Basque team Euuskalraid.

And with all those teams in the mix we’ve yet to mention the team racing with the #1 bib, who for this ARWC is the defending Raid Gallaecia champions from 2019.  They are Team Nordisk from Denmark and might go a little under the radar compared to some of the bigger name teams, but they shouldn’t. 

When they won in 2019 they beat both Oribital AR and 400 Team Naturex (world #1 and #3 … if you can remember from the start of this article), and they’ve been preparing well to try and repeat that win and claim the world title, with the same team as raced in 2019.

Laura Lambæk Knudsen said, “In our preparations for the race we have focused on paddling, as it is not our strong discipline. We also had a training camp in Gallaecia during the last week of August. This taught us a bit more about the terrain there, and we got to zoom in on the maps of the area again. We are looking forward to racing in Gallaecia again.

So, with all those teams in the mix, who do you think will win?

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