The Cameco Cowboy Tough hosted race #6 of the AR World Series in the wild, wide-open spaces of Wyoming, USA last week, and the winners were the race favourites … and yet their victory was still a surprise.
Team Tecnu (USA) arrived at the race venue of Casper having won the previous two editions of Cowboy Tough, so on paper they were the team to beat. However, they arrived by way of Alaska where they had won the previous AR World Series race, Expedition Alaska. That gruelling race took place only two weeks ago and the demands and intensity of expedition adventure racing are so great it is rare for any team to compete in two races so close together, let alone win them both.
Yet at the end of 4 days and 350 miles of varied and strategic racing, it was Tecnu who came out as three time winners of Cowboy Tough, and two time World Series winners in 2015.
It was an unprecedented performance from the experienced team (ranked 4th in the world), and particularly for Kyle Peter and Mari Chandler who completed both races. They were joined at Cowboy Tough by Jason Popilsky and Abbey Broughton … and again it’s almost unheard of a team to win an AR World Series who a 2 male/2 female line up. Tecnu have ripped up the rule book in their blitz on U.S. expedition racing!
The race was started in Buffalo by Govenor Mead and began with a few fun activities to get the teams into the spirit of the Wild West. These included taking a shot of Wyoming Whiskey (or tea) at the famous Occidental Hotel, picking up a telegram and a gun casing (both needed later in the race), and diving to the bottom of an open-air spring-fed pool, before biking to the Johnson County Fairgrounds to perform a ‘rodeo challenge’ which turned out to be chasing calves around a pen trying to grab a ribbon on their tail!
Then they left Buffalo, headed out towards the remote mountain country of Wyoming, but for this race they were not all following the same routes and there was a lot of strategic planning to be done. Each day’s course had some mandatory checkpoints, plus optional race sections and checkpoints, which the teams could opt to do … or not. The winners would be the team to get the most checkpoints.
Teams could finish each day early at the race camps and sleep before the next day’s start time, but any arriving into too late for those starts were moved onto the shorter ‘adventure course’.
In the early stages the top teams set off to complete all of the course with Tecnu and the Swedish Armed Forces Team (winners of race #2 in Chile) disputing the lead. In past year’s it’s been possible for elite teams to get all the checkpoints, but in their first year as an AR World Series event race organisers Rev3 Adventure had upped the stakes and towards the end of the day Tecnu took the brave decision to miss some checkpoints.
“That was a hard decision,” said Team Captain Kyle Peter, “but it meant we could rest for an hour at the first camp. We got in a 5am and set off for day 2 at 6am, and in the end that proved to be the race winning choice.”
Going into the second day of racing the Swedish team were head on checkpoints as the teams visited canyons and caves, paddled, ran and biked through the mountains, all the time navigating by map and compass. However, by day 3 the weary Swedish team were forced to pull out leaving Tecnu well ahead, although they were not to know this, and were just running their own race, covering as much ground as they could.
The strategic nature of the race was well illustrated by the track of second placed team Yogaslackers (who were also second in Alaska with Jason Magness completing both events). With two team members very sick on day one they were well down the rankings and “hanging in there, just getting the mandatory checkpoints” according to Magness.
That turned around towards to the end of the race. “I think that last 36 hours was the best teamwork we’ve ever had,” said Magness. “Everything just gelled and the navigation was flowing so we pushed hard and it was cool to make that big a comeback. We kept seeing other teams break as we got stronger!”
The race ended back in Casper after a float down rapids on the North Platte River and at the final tally 6 teams ranked on the full course, with between 54 and 78 checkpoints over the 4 days. Winners Tecnu recorded 78, Yogaslackers got 69, as did third placed Nordic Adventure Team (Norway).
All the race finishers were given mementos of specially commissioned belt buckles and the top 3 won cash prizes with Tecnu winning a paid -or place in the AR World Champs – again! At the end of a memorable week of racing all those who took part could say they are now ‘Cowboy Tough’, but there is no doubting Tecnu were the toughest of them all!
The next race in the series is the XPD Expedition Race from August 3rd to 14th in Australia. You can find out more about the AR World Series at http://www.arworldseries.com
Photo Credit: Randy Ericksen