Seagate 4th consecutive Adventure Racing World title
Seagate win their 4th consecutive Adventure Racing World Championship
In August 2017 Team Seagate defended their title in the Adventure Racing World Championships held in Wyoming, USA. They were on course just shy of 80-hours, two full weeks of work for most people. The difference being they did their 80-hours almost non stop, covering 750km in multiple stages, from Jackson Hole to Casper. They raced approximately 100km of pack-rafting, a massive 500km of mountain biking and a testing 150km of hiking.
The team comprised of Chris Forne, Stu Lynch, Jo Williams and Bob McLachlan, the only change from the 2016 winning team was McLachlan was invited to join the team with Nathan Fa’avae choosing not to race, he had surgery to correct a knee injury in May.
Forne, McLachlan and Williams traveled to Colorado ahead of time for acclimatisation training in Boulder and Breckenridge. Lynch who had recently become a Father had opted to stay in New Zealand and travel directly to Casper in time for the race start. Once the team was together they received the logistics plan for the race and first impressions were that there was going to be a lot of biking, which the team had anticipated.
The event base was in the city of Casper nicknamed "The Oil City" having a long history of oil boomtown and cowboy culture, hence the race name 'Cowboy Tough'. On race day teams boarded buses for the trip to Jackson Hole. The race maps were issued on the bus which enabled the teams to share their impressions, the common one was that race looked to be mainly on trails, with the linear course not presenting many route options, but the Seagate navigators Forne and Lynch knew that what is on the map, can be starkly different to what is on the ground, it may not be as easy as it looked.
Up & Down…
The race start was at Jackson Hole ski area. With a hot sunny day and some altitude to contend with, the team were cautious about starting out to fast, knowing that the first few hours is unlikely to make your race, but can easily break your race. On the starting gun teams tackled a 5km ascent of the ski slopes, rewarded by a 12km descent to the river, to where they launched pack rafts for a 30km paddle.
Williams commented “It was disappointing not to get up into the bigger mountains surrounding us and to be leaving this beautiful area at such speed”
(Williams was referring to the Teton and Yellowstone National Parks)
On the water and up the hill…
The pack raft was on a beautiful river with a good flow, making for an enjoyable paddle.
Deflating the pack rafts and getting hiking gear on the team embarked on the first big stage, a 62km hiking task that began with an abrupt 3000m climb. The team said it was hard work, the terrain, the altitude and typical in the first day of the race, there was a cluster of teams racing close together. The Kiwis found themselves surrounded by Swedish and French teams.
Seagate stuck to their own race plan and combined with Forne’s ability to find the fastest routes, Seagate and top Swedish team Haglofs pulled away from the group.
Williams said “It was beautiful ridge with stunning views all around, a moose and calf were spotted in the valley below. It is always nice to make a break from the field and be out there on course on our own as a team and be able to set our own pace. The tracks came and went a little, so Chris had to be sharp on the navigation”
Seagate arrived at the TA in lead position and assembled their bikes in the early hours of the morning in very cold temperatures. As Seagate departed 2nd & 3rd teams arrived, Swedish Armed Forces team and AMK appeared. The team reported that the 133km ride had been fast but very cold.
Time for a sleep, somewhere…
They were able to warm up and fuel up at the next TA as burgers and cokes were offered to teams. Up next was a 64km hiking stage. Haglofs and Swedish Armed Forces were together in 2nd so the racing was still very close. On the map the stage looked straight forward, but there was a lot of wind fall, which made travel slow, awkward and hard work, energy sapping constantly having to step up and over, under, wind fall. Chris was enjoying the navigation and route finding, opting to cross a river and found a better formed, more obvious route on the Intercontinental Divide track, so travel became easier.
“It was a beautiful spot in a Wilderness Park so we decided to have a sleep for a couple of hours, it was cold so we ended up cutting this short of our planned 2.30 hours. Then it was a fairly fast descent to the TA, all of us feeling a lot better from having had a wee sleep.” Williams adds.
After an energising transition Seagate were back on bikes. The ride started off fast with undulating terrain, past Beaver Creek ski area, and then off road into some beautiful country, which included three enormous climbs. Reaching the last saddle they basked in some stunning single track riding down to the ropes section.
In a tangle…
The ropes section started with an abseil followed by a caving section. The team read the instructions and headed off in search of a cave, following pink tags which led to a path uphill, after a while they questioned whether this was correct, as there were no more tags in sight, so they turned around and went back down to the river. They searched around and found some orange tags which led them to the cave. They had lost time and were frustrated as they has been told to follow the tags but it been managed poorly. The tags were fixed for the following teams.
Next up a was 266km bike ride. Seagate knew they were building a comfortable lead, possibly up to 2-hours as they would have been able to see other teams in the ropes area if they were there.
The ride was humid and hot, and tracked up a very long valley, with a constant threat of rain with thunder and lightening clouds filling the skies. Part of the track was slow riding due to the mud. The team opted for some longer routes in favour of better road surfaces. With night time approaching, Stu had a nasty fall in wheel rut but was uninjured. Seagate decided it was worth a small detour into a town to find somewhere to sleep. Careful not to waste time looking and deciding, they spoke to a local who suggested trying a shed on playing fields or the church, the shed was unappealing so they tried the church, which had a sign saying ‘welcome bikers’. It opened to a warm room, mats to sleep on and blankets, they slept well for 75-minutes.
Williams laughed “That was the best sleep I have ever had in an adventure race. I just thank the Lord for offering us space in his home”.
The team continued on their bikes and eventually reached the end of the stage, with some relief dismounting their faithful steads.
To paddle or not to paddle…
Dawn approached as the team transitioned from bikes to pack rafts, and made their way down to the lake. It was very pretty and calm. They paddled struggling a little hard to stay awake, with the sun on their faces and the mesmerising motion of paddling. The stage was a mixture of portaging and paddling, with some technical sections of river. One of the rafts was deflating slowly which required regular stops to inflate it. Before the stage end the team were hit by a squall, thunder, lightening and raining heavy hailstones. At times they couldn’t see the other boat. But they were winning and the end was approaching.
Breaking a brake…
The final stage, biking into a head wind towards Casper mountain. They turned off the main road onto the circular road, a clay muddy track after the recent rain. They had a collision whilst riding resulting in a badly damaged disc brake on Stu's bike requiring a quick repair, leaving Stu with only one working brake. Back rising they had one final climb before the descent to the finish, joined by a local biker who had ridden up to cheer support. With Stu using his foot on the the tar seal to control his speed on the sharp bends, then a little bit of survival skidding on fresh road work stony gravel, and scoot around to get a final CP and to the finish line.
First. They crossed the finish line with relief and jubilation, Seagate crowned World Champions for another year!
Williams concluded “We were pleased with how we raced as a team. We felt we kept some good forward momentum throughout. We admittedly could do better with our transitions and can always improve on working together as a team, as it is only our second time racing in this combo. But on the whole we were delighted with the result and had a fun time out there and saw some beautiful and diverse countryside, from high mountains, red canyons, very scenic valleys and high plateaus, lovely lakes and rivers. The course maybe didn't have as many route options, and didn't get onto to true off route terrain, but it still offered some navigational challenges to keep it interesting. The differences of tracks on the ground and on the map certainly meant you had to a close eye on the map. The trails offered their challenges with wind fall and mud. The climate extremes of hot and cold and the affects of altitude, were an added challenge”.
Lynch who has stepped into the team Captains position for the race, as well as back up navigator agreed with Williams and summed up his race saying "Despite a relatively recent line-up the team worked very efficiently together with good pace and intensity over the whole race. Although at first appearing quite straight forward the course threw up some reasonable navigation challenges as the maps were often not a great representation of what was found out on the course in terms of tracks and roads that no longer existed or that had changed since the maps were produced. Without a doubt Chris handled this better than any other navigator in the race which was a key component to our win. Bob was a powerhouse in his first World Championships outing for Seagate and Jo also demonstrated that she is one of the best AR athletes out there with her second World Championships title. Even more encouraging, we expect this combination to only improve with a few more races together - We're definitely not slowing down yet!”
It is worth noting that Lynch has won the ARWC every year since 2013.
McLachlan had a strong race and his paddling expertise was valued throughout the water stages. This was his second race with Seagate in 2017 so he knew what to expect, but the ARWC is a different level and it is difficult to perform well with the higher stakes, but McLachlan handled it with ease and justifiably scored a World Title.
He said of the experience “My concern about the race was that if Seagate were to not win the only difference in the team from last year was me, and I didn't want to be the bad ingredient. My thoughts on the race going into it was that there would be a lot of trail hiking and road riding, and getting the maps didn't alleviate my thoughts. The course however pleasantly surprised me in all disciplines and although not technically difficult, the contrast in landscapes, historical areas and wildlife was great. Team Seagate has a pronounced recipe that wins races, so we stuck to it and worked well as a team and came out with the same result”.
Ace navigator Forne once again played a pivotal role in the teams success, collecting his sixth Adventure Racing World Championship, explaining “I was excited to be joining Seagate to race in Wyoming. I have always wanted to visit the area, especially around Jackson Hole, having heard a lot about it, probably more in regards to skiing. I was stoked to put together a great race and win another World Champs title with Seagate. It was really satisfying racing with Stu, Bob and Jo and a great privilege to be able to continue the Seagate tradition that Nathan started. I was particularly pleased with our teams focus and motivation and how we managed ourselves for the duration of the race. Everyone contributed strongly to maintaining a good momentum throughout the course. It was always going to be challenging racing as a new team combination and without our usual team captain, so I was really pleased with how the team worked together. Reflecting on the race, we felt there is definitely room for improvement in our transitions, team work and communication, so I look forward to working on this leading up to and during our next races”
Behind Seagate the Swedish team Haglofs took 2nd place, with USA team AMK earning 3rd place. The race for 2nd & 3rd was intense and some forced errors occurred, the most noticeable the Swedish Armed Forces team missing a turnoff and dropping from 2nd to 4th just hours from the end.
Founder of Team Seagate, Nathan Fa’avae, who has been in the role of team manager for the year
concluded “I had confidence the team would win provided they didn’t get struck down with some random thing, I couldn’t see them being beaten in terms of out paced and out navigated, that’s not going to happen. But strange things happen in AR so you never know what you’ll get dealt. From where I followed the race, it appeared to me the team made sensible decisions and used their wisdom and judgement. I haven’t caught up with them in person yet but I’m keen to hear more, I suspect if I’d been racing they would have had more sleep! My sense is 2018 will be an interesting year. With Seagate having a runaway string of victories, the challenge is for the rest of the world to try and break that chain, and the challenge for Seagate is to rise to a new level”.
The team do not yet have a schedule for 2018. The team members are doing the Godzone Race with friends in different teams, next year they intend to race one ARWS event and the ARWC.
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