The North Face Adventure Team makes history in Wu Long International Mountain Quest





It was a historic race this past week for Asia’s top adventure racing team, The North Face Adventure Team, taking the Yellow Jersey and a stage podium on Day 2 in Wu Long International Mountain Quest, the defacto World Championships of stage Adventure Racing.

In its 14th year, Wu Long had one of the most competitive world-class fields ever assembled, with most of the top athletes in the sport from New Zealand, France, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Australia, Finland, and of course, China.  The annual adventure race is held in the remote and spectacular Wu Long County of Chongqing province of China, a region full of steep jungle canyons, spectacular caves, and a 2,000 meter mountain plateau billed as the ‘Switzerland of China’.   Organized by the Chinese Mountaineering Association, the event has the richest prize purse globally in adventure racing (USD $120,000) ensuring the participation of many current and former world champion multi-sport outdoor athletes.   The stage race is held over four days and requires coed teams of four to mountain bike, trail run, and kayak over 220 kilometers, along with other challenges like abseiling and orienteering.

The North Face Adventure Team included Hong Kong-based captain, Ryan S. Blair from the USA, Jay Kiangchaipaiphana from Thailand, and Camila De Araujo Nicolau and Gui Pahl Silva who have recently joined the team from Brazil.

Everyday this year was raced at break-neck pace (with stages a bit shorter than in past at 4-6 hours for winners) and in extremely technical conditions with continuous rain and mud throughout the event.  After a solid top 10 result with close finish times in the orienteering prologue on Day 1, The North Face Adventure Team raced the first long stage on Day 2 aggressively, starting with a 2 km run through a cave.  This was followed with a 2-hour reservoir kayak where the team stayed near the lead, before making a strong move on the next section up an extremely technical and spectacular gorge that required lots of rock scrambling.  After the gorge the team was in a podium position and continued to charge hard on the following trail run and onto a fast 25 km mountain bike, catching two teams with world champions (THULE and a German-New Zealand team) near the end.  The stage then ended with a short frantic run and transition to get to a 190 ft. abseil off a bridge into a lake, followed by a short swim to the finish line.  The North Face Adventure Team could taste the podium for the stage and potential for the Yellow Jersey and dug super deep to make history for the team and take the overall lead in the race.   It was an amazing day for the team to celebrate, and a start leading the race overall in the Yellow jersey the next day for first time in 10 years of racing in Wu Long.

Day 3 the team started very strong in an opening technical river paddle with all top teams very close together, but later fell back on a brutal 70km, 2,500 meter-gain mountain bike climb.  The team tried its best to contain the damage with serious stomach problems affecting one member badly, as well as, too much road biking for the teams liking coupled with tired legs from the huge push to get the Yellow jersey the day before.   Fortunately, Jay remained incredibly strong and helped the team stay in a top 10 position.
Day 4 the team recovered remarkably well and battled near the front again and stayed very close to Team Thule, who had the Yellow jersey, and Richards Usher’s New Zealand team for much of the stage.  Everyone battled on the edge of blowing-up in conditions that were epic to say the least in one of the most technical stages in Wu Long's 14-year history.  The team’s solid stage kept them in 6th Overall. 
Team captain, Ryan S. Blair, commented at the end, “just one slow bike section on one day probably kept us off the overall podium, but with a Yellow jersey and a stage podium this year everyone is feeling so great about a very successful and historic week for the team in Wu Long.” 





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