Briton Wins Olympic Race In Patagonia

Report by planetFear
Friday 24th February 2012

PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE: The medal may be wooden, but it represents a unique British Olympic success - after multisport athlete Nick Gracie won the Patagonian Expedition Race.

The event, which has an official partnership with the Olympic Committee of Chile due to the consistency of its values with the Olympic spirit, combines mountain biking and kayaking with the rather less Olympic element of trekking.

And after ten days in the Chilean wilderness, 40-year-old Londoner Gracie, racing alongside team-mates from New Zealand and Spain, made it through the spectacularly scenic 375-mile course to win in record time.

"I went to Chilean Patagonia determined to bring home the carved wooden medal they present to the winners each year, so we raced pretty hard," said Gracie, who also won the race last year.

"I knew we had one of the best teams - if not the best - to have ever raced in this event, and we proved that to be the case."

"We went off hard, but we paced ourselves enough to keep plenty in the tank when the going got tough late in the race."

Bruce Duncan, 3 time winner of the Patagonian Expedition Race, who trekked part of the course 2 years ago said. "You have to work hard for every step, an average pace of 2km/h is about standard...Nick this year seemed to race smart in front of 2 very experienced teams, pushing on when they were able, which at night is very difficult. Both the Japanese and American teams finishing 2nd and 3rd had trekked much of the final trek before, so it's good to know that the adidasTERREX Prunesco team kept in front of them by racing like we have the past 3 years, pushing hard and fast early and taking the trek head on."

 The 10th anniversary race involved 19 international teams - and only 10 of those were still in the competition by the time Gracie's team reached the finish line at a 200m-high glacier.

To get there, they had all kayaked across the Strait of Magellan, trekked through the Wildlife Conservation Society's Karukinka Natural Park, mountain biked down most of Chilean Tierra del Fuego and trekked for two days through the mighty mountains of the Cordillera Darwin.

It was a challenging course and amongst those forced to quit - some because of missed cut-offs and others simply from sheer exhaustion - was a team that included two cavers from Wales, who pushed through into the mountains but simply ran out of time.

Race founder and director Stjepan Pavicic said: "This year the competitors have really demonstrated the true meaning of the Olympic spirit associated with this race.

"It was a spectacular course that tested the competitors to their limits but we have seen some strong teams this time and Nick and his team-mates did sensationally well.

"We were blessed with some great weather out in the spectacular Chilean wilderness this year but that did not make it any less challenging."

The race showcases some stunning wilderness in need of protection - but it also highlights the changeable conditions of such extreme environments.

The opening kayak leg saw two teams retire less than a day into the race, one missing the cut-off and the other taking on water in building waves before paddling in to safety.

The race finally ended for Gracie's team on Friday morning, after a two-day wait at the 'end of the world' as wild winds prevented teams from setting off on the final leg of the race. 

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