5 Years – 5 Wins

February 2016 marked a return to Patagonia – after a gap of 3 years, the Patagonia Expedition Race, billed as the toughest race on earth, once again took 20 top adventure racing teams to the end of the world. Here, winning team member, Chris Near, looks back to 2013 and his team’s 5th success in 5 races. PatagoniaRace2016-03 We sped on mountain bikes under police escort to the finish line in Punta Arenas. It was surreal – a rapid return to civilisation after 8 days racing through some of the most rugged, remote scenery in the world. When Nick asked if I fancied racing in Patagonia, I didn’t hesitate. Patagonia is mythical – remote, mountainous, with a reputation for rapidly changing weather. That and the reputation that the race is one of the toughest was reason enough for me. PatagoniaRace2016-02 The race starts at pre-race briefing. Speculation about the route ends, planning and packing starts. It’s staggering how much food you need for a race of this length! This would be a tough one with two massive treks through serious mountain terrain with river crossings, unpredictable weather and dense vegetation, plus this year an extra consideration – 12km on the icecap requiring intricate route finding. Our race strategy was to stick with the pack. That didn’t pan out – we were soon on our own for the 120km Torres Del Paines trek. However, we increasingly slipped behind our predicted times (with serious implications for our food supply!) due to severe terrain and worsening weather. Luckily we made the next Transition before we totally ran out of food. PatagoniaRace2016-04 A couple of MTB rides followed, separated by a 20km sea paddle – nice to be off the feet but that soon came to an end with the shorter trek – a mere 46km of dense vegetation bush-whacking!!! This led us high over a mountain pass and we timed it to be there just as snow was falling. Magic! Finishing this we landed a night-time MTB ride – and a 160km one too, so opportunity to further pull ahead with the other teams still trekking. To begin, we enjoyed 80km of wind-assisted biking. The second half of the ride was “interesting”. First a strong side wind then a full-on head wind – time for the team to pull together, despite being at our limit in tiredness and lack of food (recurrent theme!!). We slowly but surely crept to Transition. There was some light relief (for 3 of us) – cycling the beach section a Skunk reared up and sprayed Mark at point blank range. The smell stuck with us for the rest of the race! PatagoniaRace2016-01 The final trek was a brute – 90km with big climbs as we crossed a mountain range. We were ready for cold, wet weather– Páramo kit all round proving the only real choice. We moved well by day and slowed at night, constrained by dense terrain. We spent 2 nights out, the second high enough for snow on the ground. White mountains made a dramatic conclusion as the stage descended to the sea. There was huge relief that we’d cracked it again. In the morning we headed off on that final section back to Punta Arenas. PatagoniaRace2016-055 wins in 5 years – it’s been a great era for the team and a strong bond has formed between Chilean Patagonia and British adventure racers. What better way to experience the area than to totally immerse yourself in the landscape? We all knew this would be the perfect race to wear sturdy Páramo to keep us dry and warm. BIG smiles all round! You don’t want to know how many times we ranted about how good this kit is. This has to be one of the hardest tests of human and equipment endurance in the world. Chris Near   The team chooses to wear Velez Adventure Trousers and Velez Adventure Light Smocks.  

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