The world’s best endurance athletes are descending on France this week where they are preparing to take part in the 2012 Adventure Racing World Championship. The race officially gets underway on Saturday when 73 coed teams of four, from 30 nations, will set out on an epic eight day adventure in the Alps on a course that is more than 500km (310 miles) in length and features over 18,000 meters (59,055 ft) of climbing.
Most of the teams competing in the ARWC spent the first eight months of the year racing in shorter qualifying events that took place in various locations around the globe. The winners of those races earned the right to compete in France where they’ll be running, mountain biking and paddling through some of Europe’s most scenic backcountry.
As with most adventure races, navigation will play an integral role in the AR World Series. At the start of the race, the teams are given a set of maps which they’ll use to navigate through a number of predetermined checkpoints on the course. The best teams have world class navigators who can find creative ways to shave time, not to mention kilometers, off the route. More often then not, it isn’t the fastest team that wins an adventure race but the one that is the most efficient at navigating.
The other important strategic factor in a race of this length is a team’s sleep strategy. When the gun goes off signaling the start of the race, the teams will be competing non-stop, day and night until they reach the finish line. The top racers are able to stay awake and moving for as much as 24-48 hours at a time, but they’ll often stop to take short naps here and there just to maintain their edge. When and where they sleep can play an important part in the final outcome of the race however, as they can rest too long and give up ground or not rest enough and end up burning out before they finish.
While the ARWC is scheduled to last up to eight days, the fastest teams are expected to complete the 500km course in around five. The pre-race favorites include last year’s winner Thule Adventure, as well as the experienced teams of Seagate and Tecnu Adventure Racing. But the field at this year’s event is very deep and there are a number of excellent teams that could easily claim victory.
You’ll be able to follow the event as it happens on the Raid in France website. Once it gets underway on Saturday, interactive leaderboards, GPS tracking and reports from the field will help fans to stay up to date as events unfold out on the course.
By Kraig Becker
[Photo credit: Aaron Swisher]