CERA 2015 (Spain, May 2015) – report Wouter Dirk
Race report CERA 2015 (Campeonato Espana Raids Aventura)
Spanish National Championship AR
Team Dutch Adventure (Ing a Lehmann, Patrick de Bruycker and Wouter-Dirk “Wodi” Huitzing)
Mallos de Riglos, Huesca, Spain, 30 & 31 may 2015
On the evening of Friday the 29th of May we (Inga, Patrick and myself) arrived at Mallos de Riglos, Spain, after a 12 hour drive to race the CERA2015 (Spanish National Championship AR). We came from the Ecrins in the French Alps as we had just finished a week of training with the rest of our team. We weren’t really sure if a week of training altitude meters was the best preparation for a Dutch team to go racing in Spain, but we were here now, so we were going to enjoy it. The scenery was indeed beautiful, so enjoying the race shouldn’t be a problem. At the race base we meet my parents as they had planned their holiday nearby. They thought it to be a nice opportunity to see what I have been doing all these years.
Both at the briefing and before the race there was a lot, really a lot, of Spanish talking. As we don’t speak any Spanish we were just standing there and smiling. When we asked for an English version it was often very brief and short. So we hoped we hadn’t missed any essential information.
At Saturday 9AM the race started with a short city orienteering follow by a trekking. In the starting chaos we miss-read the map and started to head uphill. We followed a big stream of teams uphill, but we quickly notice that these teams are going to much uphill for our checkpoints (CP’s). We decide that these teams should be in another category (we missed that part of the briefing). We quickly came to our senses and noticed that we made a mistake with the map. There were 2 CP’s south and 2 CP’s north of the start. The trekking was going straight north from the start. As we started out towards the north to collect our first CP’s we had to go down south and then back up north again. This would definitely cost us some extra minutes. It wasn’t the biggest mistake ever, but it was a bad way to start a 29hour race. Once we were attuned to the map we quickly collected the 4 CP’s and started up the big climb we had seen the other teams go up. Fortunately we could still see a lot of teams struggling uphill in front of us. Whatever the reason, following the teams in front of us or trying to make up for the first mistake with the orienteering, after climbing several hundred meters and overtaking several teams we couldn’t align the roads and features we saw around us with the map. With several teams we look around us to find our location, for me it’s was a flashback to my first expedition race, the 2010 Bimbache in Spain. During that race we were lost a lot of times and more than once we spend an hour of more to find a CP. After some minutes Patrick knew exactly where we were, and what we had done wrong. Instead of following a path up, we had followed a dried up waterway. As a result we ended up to much to the right and we missed the CP. Now we knew where we are we head off with a run towards the CP. The following couple of CP’s give us no problems, until we end up heading down the wrong valley. Again the same assumption, what we thought was a path seemed to be a dried up waterway. While we are walking down we can see the road where we need. Unfortunately we can also see a lot of thorny bushes between us and the road. With all these mistakes we are losing too much time. We planned to spend 2 hours on this stage, but we just passed the 2 hours and we still have some kilometers to go. The last part of the stage is pretty straight forward and just under 2,5 hours we run into the transition area. My parents and our support team are waiting for us and say we are doing well, but we know we are somewhere with the lasts teams and if we keep this up we will be ending up skipping CP’s.
The second stage is a 2,5 km MTB and 9 km kayaking stage. The race has only 2-persons kayaks, which means that only two people can do this stage and one has to stay at the TA. As Patrick and Inga have been kayaking a lot together and my parents are at the TA, we decide that I would stay behind and Patrick and Inga go kayaking. We planned 1 hour and 40 minutes for this stage, hence when Inga and Patrick return after 1 hour and 35 minutes I am really happy we didn’t lose another half hour. We get the maps and I am ready to go. In just a few minutes we are all on the bikes and on our way. We have a quick start and soon we started to overtake some teams. I have a good time navigating the team and during the whole stage we make no mistakes, have a good biking pace and keep overtaking teams from all categories. Near the end of the stage the mountain biking gets more technical and we are really excited when we see Spanish teams dismounting theirs bikes while we, flatlanders, are able to bike on. We end this stage just under 3 hours, which is way better than our schedule.
Quickly we change to trekking and we are on our way again. We start the stage at 16P.M. and our schedule says we have 5,5 hours to complete it. The day before we noticed that dusk sets in at 21.30. This means that if the schedule holds we should just make it before sunset. Individual headtorches are only mandatory during night stages, so we only brought only one which is mandatory team equipment. I am a little nervous about this as we didn’t finish the first tracking within our schedule time. In addition we also have 4 special tasks during this stage, so there is a good chance we won’t finish the stage before dark. The canyoning task starts just several kilometers in the trekking stage. We see some teams in front of us and we don’t want to wait at the canyoning, so we push ourselves hard to overtake as many teams as possible. At the beginning of the canyoning we pick up our wetsuits and we put them on top of our race gear. The canyoning starts really easy and we keep rushing ourselves. In the middle of the canyon there are two small rappels and the canyon end with a small tunnel. We drop of our wetsuits, put our harnesses and helmets in our backpacks and head off on a run towards the next CP. After the last stage I feel really great about the navigation and the next CP’s don’t give me any trouble either. Half way the stage we meet with two other elite teams and we move uphill together for a small time. When we come to a nice small track going downhill we try to make a break for it. We lose one team, but the other team stays with us. Several hundred meters before the Via Ferrata Inga slips of the track and falls. She stays down for some seconds and we fear she is badly hurt. We help Inga up and she is mostly fine, just some scratches and bruises. We continue towards the Via Ferrata which we find covered in teams from all categories, we won’t be moving fast on this one. We get into our gear and grab some food and drinks and slowly start climbing up. The view is beautiful and we can see Mallos de Riglos several kilometers away. When we finish the climb to the top, we are only half way. We also have to follow the Via Ferrata down. During the descend we have some opportunities to overtake some teams. At the bottom we clear away our gear and we turn into a slow run pace down to Riglos. At Riglos we see several teams running through the town and we encounter some CP’s. These turn out to be penalty CP’s for the climbing and shooting. We run past the shooting to climb first. This way Patrick’s can relax a bit and slow his heartbeat before for the shooting. I choose to climb the easiest climbing route and I finish it quick and easy. I would have loved to try a harder on, but I don’t want an unnecessarily penalty. We walk back to the shooting and Patrick hits the target on the second and fourth shot. All three of us are excited we don’t have to do any extra penalty CP’s (as these were on memorization maps) and start to move again towards the last CP and transition area (TA). From here it’s mostly downhill, so we move quickly. Just after 20P.M. we enter the TA and we hear we moved up to 9th position. We knew we had some good stages, but moving back from the back of the pack towards the first 10 gives us a really good boost.
We change quickly to the bike as we want to make as much use of the last daylight as possible and we are on our way. After the first couple of kilometers Patrick let us know he has a hard time. We stop, have a small break and discuss to take a slower pace with the biking. We all make sure we do some extra eating and drinking and we take it easy with the next CP’s, which are all uphill. Steadily we find the CP’s but at the same time the sun is disappearing slowly behind the horizon. We manage to get four CP’s before dusk. On our way to the 5th CP I have an interesting and stressful descend, as I haven’t turned on my frontlight yet and it’s steeper than expected. I get down without any problems, but when I turn around I see two bikelights still half way up. It turns out that Patrick took a small fall, nothing serious, but enough for us to turn down the pace a little bit and make sure we do this stage and night without any problems. We get the next CP and discuss the best way to tackle the rest of the stage. We decide to take as many big roads as possible. We move on, but then we have our first flat tire. We chance the tube, and expect to be overtaken by a team, as we saw some lights behind us. As we finish changing the tire, nothing happens and we proceed with the race. We are going slower than the earlier MTB stage, but we are doing well. The road is clear and it’s a nice warm night. The next CP is no problem, the one after that is at a waterfall at the end of a crossroad. As we come back from the CP, a team misses the crossroad and passes in front of us. We follow our course and a little later we pass the team which is now standing next to the road checking their maps. Just hundred meter before the next CP (69) we have our second flat, this time it’s Patrick. Again we quickly change the tube, we check the CP and continue. The whole stage had been easy navigation, but between CP 69 and CP 70 we have a hard time. We make no real mistakes, but we often stop to check the maps, cross a field, which is a road according to the map, and bushride our way on an overgrown road towards the CP 70. And just before we find the CP we have our third flat, Inga again. As we have been bushriding for almost a kilometer I am really happy as I find the CP just behind some bushes at the corner of a field. After we fixed the tire we cross the field and have mixed feelings to find the road at the other side in really good conditions. We are happy we have a good road now, but we couldn’t have seen on the map that the road we have chosen was in such a bad condition. From this point on we have no problems. Easy navigation and no flat tires, so just after 01.30 we ride back into transition. Our support crew closed the car, and Willem with the key is getting a coffee. Jesus runs after him, while we do what we can they both run back an open the car.
The next stage consist of city orienteering and high ropes. All of us get a different orienteering map and we all have to get four different CP’s. The fifth CP is the same for all of us and this is where we regroup for the high ropes. After less than fifteen minutes I am first at the 5th CP, followed by Inga and Patrick in just a few minutes. The three of us move on towards the high ropes. As we get to the high ropes we are told that it’s very busy and that we can skip it. However, if we skip it we don’t get any points either. It’s just 2A.M. and the high ropes deadline is at 3.30A.M. We don’t even think about skipping the high ropes. We get a harness and a Via Ferrata set and together with two other teams move towards the start of the high ropes. It takes us most of an hour to do all four high ropes stages. While running back towards the bikes at the TA we overtake some teams who are just walking.
Again we have a fast change to the bike and we start the 7th stage together with several teams from all kinds of categories. The first kilometers we are able to overtake some teams. However, Patrick is still tired and falling asleep on his bike. We try several things to keep him awake, but the moment we are passed by another elite team Patrick wakes up. He doesn’t like being overtaking and speeds up big time. We even have to hold him back as we are losing Inga. The other elite team is also pushing it hard and one of their team members can’t handle their speed. We hear the team arguing, still they stay close to us for the next couple of CP’s. Than they miss a turn and we lose them in the next village. When we come close to CP 78 we see an elite team coming our way. We don’t really understand what they doing as the CP should be close and the rest of the stage is also in the same direction. The path we are following ends in a field. When we cross the field we find a small track which leads us directly to where the CP should be. However, the CP isn’t there. We decide to split up and in five minutes Inga finds the CP in a different corner of the road. It’s not the place where it should be, but we found it and are able to continue. Slowly dawn sets in and once again we can see more and more of our surroundings. The next CP’s give us no problems, we are just getting tired.
Willem, Jesus are once again waiting for us at the transition, or actually they are sleeping In the car. We wake them up and drop of our bikes. Once again we refill our packs with food and water, grab a quick bite ourselves. We take a good look at the maps and realize we once again have a lot of climbing to do. There is no perfect route to pass al CP’s so we have to decide how to tackle this stage. The first CP is on top of a rock cliff, the next one sees us moving further up the face of the mountain. It’s early morning so we are almost racing for 24 hours now. The temperature starts to rise again and we are sure it’s going to be a hot day again. Back in Holland the whole country is flat, hence we are definitely starting to feel the altitude meters. For the third CP we have to descend and lose most of our hard won altitude meters. Off course following the third CP we have to climb again to crossover a mountain ridge to get to two CP’s on the other side. While we are going up, we see an elite team coming down fast. They are probably one of the leading teams and have at least a two hour lead on us. The two CP’s give us no problem, but then we have to get back up to the ridge. This time we follow the ridge for most a kilometer. Following the ridge isn’t easy as we have to scrabble over rocks and the path tends to disappear between bushes full of thorns. After the ridge it’s a little bit more uphill to CP 90 which has a beautiful view over the valley floor. Unfortunately we have no time to take a break, the good news is, it’s all downhill from here. We run back down to the TA, while checking al CP’s. Just before the TA we once again meet the elite team we were biking with in the last stage. They ask us if we have all CP’s, which we do. We ask them and they tell us they made a mistake during the biking and had to skip CP’s at the bike and at this stage. We have to pass the TA to get the last CP at the castle near the TA. My parents are waving at us at the T A and they cheer us on. We find the CP behind the castle walls and quickly move back up to the TA. Our support is ready for us and we stuff our mouths full with food and cokes. For a moment I think that Patrick is done for, he is leaning over a car door and seems to be really tired. But a minute later he is repacking is backpack and he is the first to be ready for the next stage.
The last MTB stage is pretty straight forward, not much of climbing and easy navigation. We follow the mountainside while staying on the same altitude for most of the time. We just have to keep on moving forward. Looking at our schedule we should easily be able to finish the race full course. Once again we are facing the same team we met at the last two stages, but now we know we have more CP’s. They get a small lead on us, but after two-thirds of the stage we have to downhill a single track. The Spanish team decides that they are walking down, but we Dutchies are biking down. We have to check a CP we already had checked before, just before the Via Ferrata, so now we are on known territory. Last time we had to walk back to Riglos, now we can bike it down.
We enter Riglos and park our bikes at the TA, but we don’t see our support. We ask the organization what to do and they try to call our support. I stay at the TA while Patrick and Inga search for Willem and Jesus. We have enough food and we can get some water, but Patrick and Inga both have bikeshoes and they need their running shoes for the last stage. After some nervous minutes our support shows up with the much needed gear and we exchange shoes. This last stage is an easy one, but it still needs to be done. Again we have to climb up the face of the first stage to get up the mountain. Once we are up we have to get four CP’s and run down again to finish. The climb up isn’t as fast as the first time, but we know where to go and we are making a steady progress. We find the CP at the end of the climb and follow the track to the 2nd CP next to a cabin. This CP is the same as the first trekking CP yesterday. On the mountain we meet a lot of teams from all categories trying to finish their race. The third CP is at the end of a narrow ridge. While on our way to the CP we encounter an elite team coming our way. I check my watch, as we have to go back and forth to get the CP, to check how much their lead is on us. When we come back to the same spot I see they have an almost five minute lead. At this point in the race we are not going to catch them, so we keep to our own pace. The temperature is getting really hot again and we are eager to finish the race. We check the last CP and run down the path back to Riglos. Just before Riglos we see the elite team walking in front of us. As a woman is cheering us on, the team looks back and starts to sprint. We see this and also start to increase our speed, but we have been running for the last 10minutes, while they have been walking. While chasing the team through the streets of Riglos I see my dad trying to get some good pictures of us, but there is no time to strike a good pose. At 12.43 we pass the finish line less than 10 seconds behind the team in front of us.
We are happy we finished the race, we managed to do it full course and with more than an hour to spare. Later we hear that we finished the race as 4th, a result we never dreamed about. For just a moment we think we missed 3rd place by just 10 seconds, but when we check the results we see that the team sprinting before us are 16th as they only checked two-thirds of all CP’s. The number three team did the whole race two whole hours faster than us.
Looking back we had a great and beautiful race, and we are happy we drove down to Spain for the race!
Thanks to our sponsors; INOV8, Bike2Build, ZeroCinq, Duursport.nl, Fusion, State Training and OutdoorPro
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