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Black Dirt Adventure Competes in China

The Black Dirt Adventure Racing Team have just returned from their latest adventures in China.  The team of adventure sport adrenaline junkies competed in two events, the Wulong Mountain Quest and Suqian Lake Luoma Eco-Quadrathalon Classic.  Here is an account of their experience in China as told by team captain Mark Leishman aka ‘Cabin’:

Wulong Mountain Quest

Wulong is the grand-daddy of them all, and what attracted us in the first place. A tough, and often brutal 4-day stage race. Heat, huge climbs, gnarly terrain, and altitude all combine to make this one of the most challenging events on the calendar. It is the title to win. A fact highlighted by the entry list.

Day 0 - and the prologue greeted us with persistent rain and drizzle. A hectic 45min sprint through the streets and trails of Fairy Mountain Town ultimately does little to effect the overall results; but plays a significant role in establishing a hierarchy and pecking order (at least mentally) for the days to come.

 Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Wulong China

We suffered on the Chair carry and were never really “in it” from there. Our rookie technique dropping us back 30sec that we didn’t recover. However some cohesive teamwork and fast final run saw us a comfortable 5th, and confident about the days ahead.

Day 1 - the real racing lay await.  Quietly confident we backed our cycling and running abilities, and hoping we could minimise the damage in the Kayak. Sam is without doubt a fantastic paddler. However Olly is at early stages in developing his skills/strengths, and I am… well, frankly I am rubbish. And whilst in superb form, Simone’s focus had been on Ironman and hadn’t paddled in months. So it was no surprise that after completing the first run near the front of the pack, we rapidly fell backwards as we struggled to master the notorious rudderless plastic “china specials”. 3rd into the lake. But about 8th or 9th out of it, and WAY back

Our chase on the bike went well, but was marred by a gashed tyre (of which the repair was slow and conservative), and resulting hesitancy on the rest of the ride.

 Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Wulong China

A tough final run, and abseil later, and we were stoked to bring things home a solid 5th. Disappointed to have given up 10mins to Swedish Team Silva, but pleased with our teamwork and ability to keep things together.

Day 2 saw a concerted effort to try and break Silva. With the classy Team NZAdventure up the road 30sec, we led the chase and worked hard to gain back time on GC. It worked for a while, but ultimately we paid the price for our efforts as cracks emerged late in the ride. A solid canyoning/run section saw us 4th into the paddle – the stage we had dreaded since Day 0.

Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Wulong China

But again the highlight was our collection determination and focus (and especially impressive effort from Olly in the boat). Simone was proving to be unbelievably strong, and with that came extra motivation for all of us not to let her down. We were able to limit our loses, race smart, and despite slipping to 6th on the day, gave up minimal time and solidified our overall standing.

Day 3 became about survival. 

Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Wulong

Getting through the early paddle we were in good shape. Suffering in oppressive heat, and on a seemingly endless 1hr30 climb, we pushed hard early on the bike, to keep our GC rivals (Silva and Peak Adventure) in check. 2nd fastest on stage got us up to 3rd, but with an expected run of 2hr30 on technical downhill terrain, survival quickly became the focus.

Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Wulong China

Starting to pay for his outstanding efforts on the first two days, Olly was really suffering. How he got through this stage is beyond me, but he did.

Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Wulong China

After 4 days, 16hrs of fast paced racing, and thousands of metres of climbing we were rewarded with 5th place.  We’d proven to be one of the strongest teams on the bikes, and more than solid on the runs. Paddling was an obvious downfall, but we knew that before we boarded the plane.

Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Wulong China

There are always if’s, but’s and maybe’s, but at the end of the day you can only control what you are doing in the moment. As a team we did that well. Appreciating (and tolerating) each other’s strengths and weaknesses (with that applying more to me than anyone!).

I was a very satisfied and appreciative team captain/manager. Albeit a slightly exhausted one.

Suqian Lake Luoma Eco-Quadrathalon Classic

To extend the trip, following Wulong, we'd decided to add in a new event to the Chinese AR calendar; the "Suqian Lake Luoma Eco-Quadrathalon Classic". Quite a mouthful. And as it turns out, quite the challenge.

Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Suqian Lake Luoma Eco-Quadrathalon Classic

 238km non-stop format, including swimming, kayaking, rollerblading, MTB, Abseiling, and Running. All on a dead flat landscape. Which means fast, no respite, and brutal. The winners were predicted to take 16hr. It would be no walk in the park. Perhaps the biggest challenge was the full week we spent on location, awaiting the start. Idle minds and bodies only made the challenge grow exponentially larger (mentally at least).

Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Suqian Lake Luoma Eco-Quadrathalon Classic

So much happened that day that I won't report it all. But I can say it was incredibly tough, and incredibly challenging. Suffice to say I experienced a lot of things that are proving very useful in my day job - where I am currently lecturing a Sport Psychology/Mental Skills Training paper.

Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Suqian Lake Luoma Eco-Quadrathalon Classic

For me the day involved my longest ever swim, longest ever kayak (twice, because the 2nd one of the day outdid the 1st), longest rollerblade, and longest run. Quite the checklist.

We all had dark patches and some very “grovelly” moments. Except maybe Simone who seemed to get stronger and faster the longer we went (she probably could have come top 3 racing solo if she didn't have to wait for us?!).

Black Dirt Adventure Racing team compete in Suqian Lake Luoma Eco-Quadrathalon Classic

But we got through, and managed to come out on top of a race long battle with a Czech team for 6th after 17hr of toil. Great outcome for us relative to our skills and experience (or lack thereof).

Never again was our immediate reaction..... But as I’ve learned over the years: never say never

Huge thanks to Health & Travel Insurance Brokers, Merida Bikes, Thule, Maxxis, and RotoruaNZ.com for their support and belief. And of course my teammates. Sam Clark, Simone Maier, and Olly Shaw.

Health and Travel Insurance Brokers are proud to be a main sponsor of the Black Dirt Team & we look forward to more stories about their racing adventures from the Xterra World Champs, Coast to Coast and more.


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