Stu arrived in Abu Dhabi this morning with a mountain of gear ready to race the 2009 Abu Dhabu Adventure Challenge. Waiting at the airport to meet him were his team mates for the next week - a talented and experienced bunch of Kiwi multisporters.
Stu enjoying the desert trekking stage of Abu Dhabi 2007 - lots of sand!
With the rest of Team Orion enjoying a well-earned rest from racing after recently contesting the World Champs, Stu was approached to join an all-Kiwi team to take on the Abu Dhabi Challenge. Team Captain Fleur Pawsey (Coast to Coast winner 2007, placed well in the Wulong Mountain Quest and 2008 Abu Dhabi Challenge) has been doing all the organising for the boys for the last few weeks - a challenge made greater by the face that Stuart and original team member George Christenson were both "otherwise occupied" racing at the World Championships in Portugal only 3 short weeks ago! George unfortunately had a nasty-looking pair of 'macerated' feet after Portugal (where he placed 2nd with Team Nike) - when I last saw him on the finish line at Portugal he was still intending to race not only Abu Dhabi, but also the Lake to Lighthouse back in NZ the very next weekend which involves running the 46km Lake Waikaremoana Track (they make them tough in NZ obviously!). Given the state of his feet I wasn't suprised to hear he had later to decide to give both races a miss, and hopefully will be recovering well back home now.
Multisport racing legend Gordon Blythen from Wanaka has raced with Stu and Team Orion earlier this year in China at the Wulong Mountain Quest, and adds to the huge kayaking strength of the team - expect to see them make some serious ground in the first two days on the Arabian Gulf!
Fleur and Gordon were left to come up with a very last minute team mate and were lucky to recruit Nathan Peterson from Christchurch. Nathan has been around the multisport and adventure racing scene for some time, placing several times in the Top 10 of the Coast to Coast, and has also raced in China at the Wulong Mountain Quest and at the Adventure Racing World Championships in Brazil last year.
Stu and the team are fortunate to have received support from ADCO (Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore oil operations), who have sponsored travel and race entry costs. So keep an eye out for Team ADCO New Zealand (#42) on the results board!
Other Kiwi's racing include defending champions Qasr Al Sareb (#16) consisting of Richard and Elina Usher, Marcel Hagnar and Nathan Fa'avae called out of retirement.
After the usual food shopping and gear sorting today, tomorrow (Thursday 3rd Dec) will be spent doing gear check and race administration. The race gets underway on Friday with what promises to be a spectacular start with an urban triathlon in the very centre of Abu Dhabi, before teams begin an epic 2 day kayak stage exploring the Arabian Gulf. Teams must be off the water by dark and camp at one of the remote island checkpoints before resuming the paddle stage at dawn. A transfer to the mountainous sand dune terrain of central Abu Dhabi heralds the beginning of a tough two days with 120km of sandy desert trekking to cover. Day five is occupied with a 90km mountain bike leg, while the finale on Day 6 includes rope work, technical mountain running and cycling around Jabel Hafeet, Abu Dhabi's 'mountain in the desert'.
I hope to be able to be in contact with Stu at the end of each stage, and post updates on how the team is going here on the Team Orion Blog. Other websites likely to have good coverage are Sportzhub www.sportzhub.com , Sleepmonsters www.sleepmonsters.com and the official race website with live GPS tracking www.abudhabi-adventure.com.
Happy following! Fi