The weekend of Feb. 11-13 saw seven of the teams competing in the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race beginning the most challenging section of the course: a 119 mile (191 km) trek through remote mountains and rivers. According to race organizer Stjepan Pavicic, “this is the best race we have ever had here,” with the five front teams all still in contention for the championship title.
This trekking section, the longest in the history of the race, will take several days to complete, with the first 67 km stretch between Checkpoints Nine and Ten expected to require as much as 45 hours. This is the most remote portion of the race and takes teams through open valleys, past volcanoes, up mountainsides and across freezing mountain rivers. Communication with the teams through this portion of the race will be near impossible except at checkpoints along the way.
Leading team Adidas Terrex from Britain, seeking its third consecutive victory, has continued to maintain its lead, reaching Checkpoint 10 on Feb. 13 after a two day trek from Checkpoint 9. American team GearJunkie is, however, poised to overtake them in the portion between Checkpoints 11 and 12.
Even the following three teams from France, Croatia and Denmark, respectively – around four hours behind Gear Junkie – could theoretically make the jump to the lead, says Pavicic. “One small mistake can cost a lot of time. Adidas is under high pressure from behind. They are the only team that will not know their relative position,” he says.
In the coming portion of the trek, there will be many opportunities for teams to stray from the marked path, a strategy that significantly benefited GearJunkie in an earlier portion of the race, closing the gap between them and Adidas Terrex by eight hours. Shortcuts also pose potential problems and obstacles for teams, so they are by no means a sure-fire course to victory.
Teams will have to proceed with through the remainder of the last trekking section until Checkpoint 13, where the final stretch of the race will take teams on mountain bikes across broad Patagonian pampas to the finishing line at Pali Aike National Park.