Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge 2009 prolongs the pleasure

With an overall increase in distance to 428 kilometres, this year’s Challenge will be longer, tougher and even more exciting than ever.

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge 2008.  Copyright: Sascha Jurek / funsporting.comAbu Dhabi City, with its skyline of tall, modern buildings interspersed with delicate minarets and elegant seafront promenades will repeat its role as urban showcase for the event by hosting the opening act of this six-day adventure epic. On the 4th December this flourishing cosmopolitan metropolis, offering all the attractions associated with a vibrant capital, is the perfect venue for a triathlon-style opener that involves 34km of running, cycling, swimming and sea kayaking to Lulu Island. The pellucid waters of the Persian Gulf, an essential in the race itinerary, invite the keen kayaker and are studded with pristine desert islands bearing ancient vestiges.

Later that same day of the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge 2009, the teams begin a 110km sea-kayaking leg that will take them west around the coast and past the 27 square mile cultural and recreational haven of Saadiyat Island. A natural beauty spot, this international tourist destination will host 5-star resorts, immaculate sandy beaches, lagoons, a wildlife reserve and the only seaside golf course in the region. A vibrant cultural district, housing some of the Middle East’s most audacious architectural gems and extensive art collections, is also under construction. An island bivouac is envisioned for the teams, in preparation for the following day’s racing on the water.

And for desert, the teams will travel to the Rub' al Khali (Empty Quarter), the world's largest expanse of unbroken sand with dunes so tall that they attract visitors from around the globe with only one objective in mind: get to the top. Here, only three hours from Abu Dhabi City, a 2-day struggle across 120km of dramatic and uncompromising desert will constitute one of the most challenging stages of the race, where the teams must manage water, effort and itinerary choices to best effect. As if that wasn’t enough, this is the home of the legendary “shouting sands” (Za’eeq al Raml), a phenomenon that local legends often describe as evil spirits trying to disorient travellers and draw them deeper into peril… but a trusty compass and reliable map should keep the racers safe from any interfering djinn.

On the 5th day, the teams take to the saddle to cover a punishing 95km biking stage. Split into 2 legs, the first 40km section, from the heart of the Liwa desert to Hamim, includes a cameo appearance for the luxury, five-star Qasr Al Sarab desert resort, due to opens its doors to guests this month. The race will “check in” at this unique, authentic Arabian retreat with a quick detour through the palm-shaded grounds. The 54 remaining kilometres will take the racers from Hamim along an itinerary close to the Oman border. From the finish line of this section teams will go to Al Aïn for a bivouac at the foot of Jebel Hafeet.

The city, otherwise known as the “Garden City of the Gulf”, thanks to strict planning rules, limiting the height of new buildings, has a feel of intimacy and an abundance of pleasant parks, age-old markets and cultural attractions, including the Al Aïn National Museum, which houses temporary and permanent collections illustrating the history of emirate.

After a night camping to the east of the Jebel Hafeet range, the teams will steel themselves for the final day’s racing that starts with night-orienteering section followed by a trek up the jagged slopes of the mountain range which, at 1,340m, dominates the surrounding area and is one of the UAE's highest peaks. A technically demanding rope works section will give the teams a stunning view across the fertile plains studded with date farms that reach the outskirts of Al Ain. From the top the competitors will cycle 37km into the city centre of Al Ain. The final 4km will be on foot with the teams sprinting through the popular Public Gardens, where a large cosmopolitan crowd comes at weekends to picnic and play, to the finish line at the Jahili Fort, one of the country’s most important historical monuments and the largest castle in Al Ain.

In a race renowned for the quality of its course set in a country celebrated for its hospitality and cultural heritage, longer can only mean better.

Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge.  Foto: Sascha Jurek
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