Leading French adventure race team Ertips recently won the inaugural ARC Adventure Race Croatia by a considerable margin. The 350km race, which was held in Zadar, with its extraordinary ‘karst’ limestone terrain, saw 20 teams compete over 17 legs of sea kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, gorge walking, ropework and of course, demanding navigation.
Adventure Race Croatia was a demonstration race within the ARC calendar, and the winning team was awarded a free entry to this year’s Adventure Race World Championships – the Raid in France, to be held in early November in the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
Team Ertips has been winning races in various incarnations for more than 20 years, since the days of the original adventure race, the Raid Gauloises. They covered the course of the ARC in just over 56 hours, five hours faster than their nearest rivals, Team Intersport from Slovenia. On this occasion the team members included Sam Hubert, Clement Eldin, Stephanie Bianchi, David Barranger. Sam Hubert, captain of Team Ertips, tells us about their race.
First a bit of Form
Sam Hubert: I have been captain of the ERTIPS Team for 13 years and I have competed with all three other team members over the years, but this was the first time that the four of us have entered an adventure race of this length together.
David and I are the most experienced racers in the team and we have competed in six world championships together, as well as in many other adventure races. It was Clem and Steph’s second major adventure race. Team ERTIPS has won lots of races over recent years, but it would be fair to say that the ARC was one of our favourite victories.
What was ARC 2018 like?
The ARC 2018 was a proper adventure race. It was quite short, obviously (and that’s why we choose it), but the balance between the activities was good and the 17 legs gave the race a good rhythm, and it enabled us not to fall asleep ! One of the aims of Igor Dorotic (the race organiser) in his course design was to take us through some historic parts of Croatia, so for instance that’s how we ended up on the Velebit Road, an old Roman road that links the sea and the mountains.
The mountain bike sections were not that technical, but the treks were really demanding and pretty unforgiving - you really didn’t want to make a mistake out there - a fall could have been really dramatic ! Also, as it turned out, our two sea kayak legs took place at night and the navigation was challenging.
What makes ARC special?
It’s important to know that terrain in this part of Croatia is extremely hard going. You had to be a real mountain goat to get through the hiking legs. We suspected this before the race – and we even found some similar rocky terrain in which to train. It was definitely worth it !
During Leg 7 particularly, you really had to get your navigation absolutely spot on – it was necessary to strike out away from the paths. In fact this turned out to be a key point in the race, and it enabled us to build up a lead on the other teams.
Was the course a success?
For a first race, the ARC was definitely a success ! Maps, check points, check point photos and the organisation were almost perfect. I say almost, as there are a few small things that they could do to improve, but we would like to emphasise what a big, big job Igor and his team undertook and how accomplished it was.
Did Ertips get training and planning right?
We have plenty of experience, obviously, so we train individually and this time, in order to get ready for the race, we entered just a single, one-day adventure race in France in early September.
David and I are the team navigators and when one of us is leading, the other verifies his decisions. Steph is in charge of the sleeping time, which is a crucial job, because in the third night, we were so tired that we could have slept on and on! Clem was in charge of the control-book … No mistakes are permitted in that job :-)
How long did you sleep? Team strategies?
Before the race we decided that we wouldn’t sleep on the first night, and then that we would take a minimum of an hour’s rest during the second night, and this is exactly what we did. It was particularly good rest because we found a refuge on Leg 7 to sleep in. On the last night we slept twice for 10 minutes and that was all we needed.
Our strategies worked pretty well in the race itself. We were pleased that we managed to navigate pretty accurately and to keep our race rhythm – if the weather’s hot it’s important not to push too hard so that you don’t dehydrate, because you will always pay for it later.
We can always improve though. We lost about 10 minutes during the first sea kayak leg, when we had our heading out by a few degrees for a whole hour. Also, in the final moments of mountain bike leg, which we did during the night, we made some small mistakes. However, we were lucky that this didn’t make a difference.
What was the most challenging moment for the team?
Probably leg 7, the hiking leg in the Crnopac Mountains. It was only 15km long, but the terrain was brutal karst limestone and it was like a labyrinth weaving around the outcrops, so the navigation was really tough. We expected to be doing the leg by night, which would have been really hard, but we were lucky and we made it through the difficult bit by dusk.
Was there a particularly special moment?
The sunset on the third evening was beautifully red and we were confident about the biking and kayaking legs to come, so that’s when we began to scent a possible victory. So that was a good moment. Also, when we got through the difficult navigation on Leg 7 that gave us another boost!
What did you learn?
We reminded ourselves that taking the time to navigate properly is key to doing well in any race.
We don’t worry about what the other teams are doing. From the start we just concentrate on our own yellow jersey....