AR blues with Team Cyanosis
Everyone in the local adventure racing (AR) family had high expectations for Team Cyanosis at this November’s Adventure Racing World Championships (ARWC) in Portugal. They’re one of South Africa’s premier AR teams, plus they’d raced in the area that ARWC was being held in 2007 and 2008. They finished fifth on both occasions, so a top 10 or even a podium seemed possible. But then disaster struck as Debbie Gerrand injured her back two days before the race during rollerblade training.
This undoubtedly resulted in a lower placing than they hoped, but the team has taken the experience in its stride. When we interviewed them, there was little sign of the usual post-race AR blues. They had done their best and it showed. A total of 59 teams started the race, with Cyanosis finishing a respectable 22nd out of the 40 teams that finished the race: a race that many said was the toughest in the history of adventure racing. They crossed the finish line in just over five days after 900km of non-stop racing.
RG Ryno Griesel
CM Clinton Mackintosh
DG Debbie Gerrand
NM Nicholas Mulder
How different was the course compared to previous years?
CM A lot different from the previous years. The past two years we only touched on the mountains but this time we really experienced them. When Nic first received the 62-odd maps before the race he said that these mountains would make the Drakensberg look like a picnic!
RG The additional physical challenges of the route definitely put extra strain on all teams to stay mentally focused.
How much sleep did everyone manage to get in the five days of competition?
Team Around four and a half hours in total.
Personal highlights of the event?
NM The extreme wide variety of terrain we raced through in just a few hundred kilometres. We went from an urban setting to coastal shrubland, then mountainous forest and open grassland before ending up in cork tree forests, olive plantations, dense bushland and finally the Portuguese equivalent of fynbos.
DG The amazing support that I received from my teammates. They never made me feel like I was holding the team up, and they did everything possible to help me.
CM The enormous wind turbines that are scattered across the mountains. The first night of the actual race we were cycling on a ridge line with a number of other teams. Visibility was no more than 30m and you could hear this massive swooshing noise that sounded so close but you could not see anything.
It was incredibly eerie.
What is the one thing that each of you cannot do without while racing?
DG Clean socks CM Clean socks RG Chocolates NM Lots of good food in transitions!
Before Debbie’s rollerblade fall that injured her back, what position was the team realistically aiming for?
NM Our strategy was to be the underdog going into the race. Race tactics with navigation and strategy were always going to prove a vital ingredient. We felt strongly that we could have pulled off a top place if everything had gone right on the day. Unfortunately this was not to be, but the eventual winners, Team Helly Hansen Prunesco of Great Britain followed this exact formulae to pull off a surprising, but well earned win.
CM We believed (and still believe) that at full-strength a podium place would have been in our reach.
What was the most difficult leg of the race?
RG After missing the midnight cut-off at the end of the 160km bike leg of stage four, we had to cycle a further 40km to the start of another 50km bike leg that became a very tough 17-hour continuous bike leg.
NM The first night of the race saw the team cycle 16 hours non-stop through the steepest mountains of Portugal in thick cloud and with a strong, cold wind blowing. There were no flats, it was either straight up the mountains or straight back down on the other side. In this one cycling stage alone, we climbed over 7,000 vertical metres.
Stage three had a positive altitude gain of 10,730m within 270km.
How tough was this stage?
DG This was a very hard stage. It felt like the race organiser was trying to break us! It was still fairly early in the race and the long bike section on stage four was also lurking in the back of our minds. We were wary of the pounding our brakes would take because of the constant downhills after the ascents. Pulling brakes so hard for so long heats them up and sometimes they just stop working.
NM This ultra-long stage was always going to be one of the toughest in the history of adventure racing. Having it so early in the race also meant it would determine the outlook for the rest of the race. If you were not fit enough for the required climbing, it would make the rest of the race a misery. This section also took place during the first night in thick mist. Being winter, the nights were 13 and a half hours long and very cold (less than 5oC on the mountains – not a good place to stop for some sleep!). The navigation was also extremely technical… even before the low visibility problems presented by the mist. This meant that the whole section was going to be extremely mental, requiring the competitors to keep going no matter how bad it got.
Congrats for vasbyting. What is the team’s strongest discipline?
CM We have been racing a long time and we work hard as a team to make sure we remain competitive in all the main AR disciplines. Our team is very well balanced at the moment so we move quickly on foot, bike and kayak. If you asked me what is our weakest discipline I would honestly tell you we were outclassed on the rollerblades by the European teams. We weren’t the worst on them though.
What were your feelings at the finish?
NM The team didn’t achieve its initial goals, which of course was a disappointment. However, pulling through and completing the full race with most importantly, a full team, gave us a sense of accomplishment no matter what. We remain very positive knowing that we can overcome adversity and be stronger.
RG A feeling of quiet accomplishment for completing a challenge tackled as a team. The reward of knowing that “we did it” almost instantly leads to a “what’s next? – bring it on” attitude. So watch this space!
Primal Quest (USA) 800km 19
Deposita Red Ants (SA) 150km 1
Nguni (SA) 170km 1
Eden Challenge (SA) 320km 1
AR Estoril Portugal XPD (Por) 500km 5
Swazi Xtreme 250km 1
AR Estoril Portugal XPD (Por) 700km 5
Swazi Xtreme 350km 1
AR World Champs (Por) 900km 22