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It may have been the first ‘Le Mans’ style start in adventure racing, no one is sure of that, what is for sure is that it was exciting and a bit mad too, but then so is adventure racing.
It was an early morning start (4am), and then a long bus ride (8 hours), to get to the village of Union on the border with Panama. The roads were not as bad as we were led believe though and the Costa Rican welcome was warm, with local drummers and dancers on the football field to welcome the teams. After the relative cool of San Jose (which is at a much higher altitude), the weather was warm and humid too. It was the first experience for most of teams of the humid heat they will be racing in.
After waiting in whatever shade they could find the call eventually came to walk the 1km down the dirt road to the start, which was set up on the border, opposite the Panamanian customs post (there isn’t one on the Costa Rican side). Teams lined up on the dirt road and just 15 minutes after 2pm the 2013 Adventure Racing World Championships was at last underway.
The teams raced the kilometre back up the road to find their bike boxes which were stacked under the palm trees beside a small farm. Now the chaos began. Teams had to unpack and assemble their bikes, and also find their maps, which had been left with the boxes, before setting off on the first cycling stage. (Although they did know the first two CP’s as those were on the sample map they were given at the briefing ).
It was a pressured situation which the organisers had created, and a soon there were bikes, wheels, boxes, helmets and frames everywhere. The teams quickly set to their task, some more quickly than others, and Seagate quickest of all. They had not run too hard up the hill and arrived in the bike box area in mid pack, but showed just how slick they are at transitions and left first. Thule Adventure were quick too, but they ran to the marshals to ask where their maps were, only to be told they were under the bike boxes. “It’s very confusing!” was all Stu Lynch could say.
Soon more and more teams were leaving, not all going in the same direction. There are some early navigational choices to be made on the 95km ride to the coast and the teams will be riding into the first night of the race.
The last teams took almost 45 minutes to get going, but once they were on their way Race Director Pongo Baker could not stop smiling. “I have to pinch myself,” he said, “the race is finally underway after we have worked so hard for 2 years. I’m so happy.”
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