ADAC: Desert Islands wins gripping duel
Richard Ussher, captain of Desert Islands (NZ), draws on the experience and talents of his teammates to complete an error free final day, inspiring his team all the way to the finish at Al Ain to win the 2008 Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge.
Six days ago, the 36 teams competing in the 2008 Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge set out from Abu Dhabi city to cover a 361km adventure racing course that would not only test their capacity for physical and mental endurance but also take them on a journey of discovery, as they kayaked, biked and trekked across some of Abu Dhabi’s most remarkable and treasured natural attractions.
From the very start on Corniche Beach, competition among the teams was fierce but it was impossible to predict how tight the race would be by the time the teams reached the garden city of Al Ain for the final showdown on the last day. With only 63 seconds between the first and second teams and 2 seconds separating third and fourth, the contenders for the podium places would have to give of their best and remain focussed for the duration of the final three sections of this 6-day race.
At 06:00 this morning, in the shadow of the Jebel Hafeet Mountains, the teams raced away on their bikes from the bivouac in Green Mubazzarah up the smooth tarmac road that twists and turns 12km to the 1000m summit of this a jagged rock formation that rips across the skyline east of the city. At the outcome Team NZ (NZ) were squeezed into 4th fastest allowing race leaders Desert Islands (NZ) to stretch their slim race lead to just over 3 minutes. French team Sport 2000 Vibram Outdry (FRA) managed the third fastest over this section, taking advantage of a puncture that slowed rivals Wilsa HH (FRA), to finish 8 minutes ahead of their compatriots and subsequently steal 3rd place.
On the following section, comprising a 14.5km trek across rocky tracks interspersed with some breathtaking rope works, one of which was a spine-tingling 200m abseil, Desert Islands (NZ) finished third but were still widening the narrow gap between themselves and second place Team NZ, who clocked in 28 seconds slower. Sport 2000 Vibram Outdry (FRA) were elated with their performance on the ropes, putting a further 6 minutes on Wilsa HH (FRA) and virtually securing the last podium place.
The final 27 Kilometer bike ride into the finish at the historic Jahli Fort in the centre of Al Ain would determine the outcome for the team that had taken the race lead on the first day, Desert Islands (NZ), and clung to it throughout the 6 days, staving off repeated, strong challenges from compatriots Team NZ. Making sure they kept out of trouble by racing slightly to the side of the speeding peloton, this remarkable quartet of Elina and Richard Ussher, Jarad Kohlar and Jay Henry produced a flawless finish to what had been a flawless race.
Final Ranking – Top 5:
1 DESERT ISLANDS (NZ) 39:18:20
2 TEAM NZ (NZ) 39:25:23
3 SPORT 2000 VIBRAM OUTDRY (FRA) 39:31:42
4 WILSA HH (FRA) 39:46:34
5 NIKE (USA) 40:06:20
The opening day of the 2008 Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge embraced extremes of more than one nature: First came the effort required by the athletes to compete this morning’s inaugural triathlon.
For the second day of the race, based on the picturesque Sir Bani Yas Island, the teams started with an opening 45.5 km MTB section followed by a 27km kayaking leg culminating at Umm al Kurkum Island.
As the race hits its mid point, early front runners Desert Islands (NZ) see their race lead reduced with the power paddlers vying for supremacy over the second 82 km sea-kayaking section.
At 7 o´clock this morning the 36 teams set out in a thick veil of fog from Moreeb Dune with the prospect of a 36-hour struggle with the sands on this massive 107km desert trekking stage.
As night fell, the leading teams embarked on the remaining 44km of the desert trekking stage, each one hoping to find the combination of speed and guile needed to break the deadlock in the overall ranking.