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The Nirvana Raid in Italy Launches the ARWS Europe Season

Rob Howard / 11.05.2022See All Event Posts Follow Event
Race winners Team France ExpéNATURE
Race winners Team France ExpéNATURE / © Nirvana Adventure Race/ Puma Photo

The first ever AR World Series Race in Italy, and the first in their new European Series, took place last weekend at the Nirvana Raid. 

The venue was the city of Lecco, which is about an hour drive north of Milan, making it an accessible venue for Italian racers in the big northern towns and cities, and for teams to cross the borders from France and Switzerland.  It’s an attractive venue too, on the shores of Lake Como, which is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Europe, and with many natural parks in the surrounding pre-alp hills.

The race attracted a strong entry from France and Switzerland, and there were also teams from the Netherlands, Germany and Italy entered in the two races.  The ARWS category was a 135km race over 8 stages, and this was for teams of four, plus there was a shorter, 70km pairs race.

The race wasn’t lucky with the weather, with heavy rain falling as the ARWS teams set off on Friday night.  The course had also been adapted by Race Director Mario Ruggiero and his team in the lead up to the start due to unusually heavy snowfall for early May. 

The organising team from the Nirvana Verde outdoor club has been established for many years, organising orienteering, sport climbing and mountain marathon events.

This expertise was evident to the competitors and Romy Viale of Team France ExpéNATURE, one of the world’s most experienced racers, commented, “It was a great race with really good maps, different route choices and crazy elevation.”

For his part Ruggiero commented, “For the Nirvana Verde Orienteering team, this was our first time organizing such a challenging Adventure Race, and we were up to the task.

“Despite the unexpected bad weather all through the three days, the team welcome was warmly handled, as well as assistance on the route to the athletes in trouble. Participants showed their thankfulness for the hard, but rewarding routes, and for the warm atmosphere.

“The people in the city of Lecco were curious and admired the participants, especially on the start line, when the headlamps lit the roads in the rain.”

The start was at 21.00 and the race began with an urban orienteering stage, so the locals out on a Friday night had plenty of opportunity to see the teams racing around Lecco.

From there the course took them onto a 14km lake and river paddle, and ironically the water levels were very low after months of drought!  The climbing began on the stage 3, 42km cycle ride, and here even the lead teams lost time navigating in the fog and darkness.  By this time the very experienced French teams; FMR, ExpéNATURE and DSN 74 Capoupackraft, had started to open a lead and went on to dominate the race.

Stage 4 was a 14.5km mountain trek which reached the summit of Mount Resegone above Lecco, and included a mine visit and a via ferrata.  Teams were warned not take the wrong via ferrata as there are two very close to each other!

It was back on the bikes for stage 5, with some fast downhill, then onto the crux trekking stage, a 36km mountain trek with 2800m of climbing and 9 checkpoints.  A course change here due to heavy snowfall added a hard 800m of climbing, and on this stage ExpéNATURE opened up a bigger lead over their fellow French teams.  Viale said, “It was even more brutal than expected and we really made the difference there thanks to a strong team spirit.”

Stage 7 was a 7.5km kayak back into Lecco and then it was just a 500m trek to the finish line ... but carrying the kayaks.  Fortunately, no sprint finishers were required!

The winners were Team France ExpéNATURE in 25.25.43, which was about 4 hours longer than expected, partly due to the bad weather, and to a few navigational errors.  DSN 74 Capoupackraft held onto second place in 28.24.03 and FMR were just 6 minutes behind them.  These were the only teams to get all 33 checkpoints on a tough course, raced in difficult conditions.

Viale added, “I'm half Italian, and since I lost my dad more than 20 years ago, I dedicated my entire life to Adventure Racing, so this victory means a lot to me!”

His new team mate Jonathan Brunel commented, “It was our first race together after doing a weekend of kayak and trail training.  We were very complementary, which allowed everything to work perfectly.

“The two kayak sections went perfectly well. With my 3 expert teammates in this activity, I almost wanted the distances to be longer, when usually it's the opposite!”


Emiliano Corona of the Nirvana Adventure Team added, “We could not miss the first ARWS Europe race organized in Italy, our home race… and what a race!  Lake, mountains, woods, rocks, via ferrata, paths, asphalt, rivers, superb landscapes and… rain!

“It was a very tough race physically, with orienteering that did not allow us to make a difference after a bad second section in the canoe.  We tried to push but it was not enough for the podium.  We are ready for the challenges of the next race!”

After the success of their first race ARWS race, it looks like the Nirvana Raid in Italy will be a fixture on the European calendar, and next time they will be hoping for better weather!

For the race tracks, results and photos, and for more information on the race see https://www.nirvanaraid.it  

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