Expedition Adventure Racing, arguably one of the toughest sports on the planet, is seen as the ultimate test of human endurance. A test on all levels: physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. Mixed gender teams of 4 compete non-stop over vast distances (between 500 – 800km), navigating via compass and map to collect a series of checkpoints. Disciplines can include mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, swimming, rope work and orienteering.
Over the past 8 years, the Merrell Adventure Addicts have traveled the globe competing in the Adventure Racing World Series. A 5th place finish at last years World Championships in Costa Rica, testiment to the fact that they have the ability and experience to mix it up with the top teams in the world. The 2014 World Championships gets under way in Ecuador on Sunday 9th November. “We raced in Ecuador in 2012 and really battled with the altitude, ultimately causing us to withdraw” Graham Bird, captain of the Merrell Adventure Addicts. “We thought long and hard about traveling to the champs this year, in the end deciding to give it a skip this year and focus on rebuilding our team.”
One of the fundamental traits of a successful Adventure Racing team is the dynamic and teamwork that exists between the team members. Team Merrell’s success over the past five years has been built around the strong bond that had developed amongst the addicts core team of Graham Bird, Tatum Prins, Hanno Smit and Donovan Sims. “Over the past 18 months, the team has battled to get a regular starting line up.” says Hanno Smit, team elder and workhorse. “With Don’s Leukemia, Tatum’s pregnancies and injuries to Graham and myself, we have had a variety of people stepping in, which had not strengthened our teams solid dynamic.”
With Donovan now undergoing Chemotherapy for his Leukemia and Tatum Prins expecting her second child, the team chose to have some time out for a few months. “Both Hanno and myself have been racing for over 25 years in various sports and just needed some mental time away from competing.”, mentioned Graham Bird. “We have come back refreshed, rejuvenated and motivated for 2015.”
As the team looks towards 2015 and an ambitious racing program, the need for some stablitiy in the team line up was recognised. With this in mind, the team recruited the very talented youngsters Robyn Kime and Grant Ross to bolster the core squad and ensure a more consisent starting line up.
Though only 24, Robyn Kime brings an exeptional racing pedigree to the team, having achieved phenomenal success in both paddling and trail running where she has represented her country in both disciplines. “She has shown that she has the mental strength and determination to achieve at the highest level.” mentioned Graham Bird. “She is super motivated and keen to tackle Expedition Racing.”
Grant Ross, 29, has been involved in Adventure racing for 9 years, having raced with the WCAD crew. An extremely strong and talented sportsman, with a relaxed attitude which will compliment the team dynamic perfectly. “It is great to get a youngster into the team to tow us old ballies.” chirps Hanno Smit. “It will be nice to have someone else to carry all the team gear.”
As this year winds down, the Addicts have already turned their attention to next year. With the continuing support and shared vision of Merrell, the Addicts have planned a massive year that will see them continuing to be driven by the “LET’S GET OUTSIDE” philosophies of Merrell. “We have three Adventure Racing World Series races on our calendar for next year”, states Graham Bird. “We will kick off with Expedition Africa, Swaziland in June. Followed by XPD Australia in August. We will use these two races as preparation for our main focus which will be the World Championships in Brazil in November 2015.”
As part of the rebuilding phase, the team will be tackling a “last minute/spontaneous” attempt at the mix/ladies record of the 200km Drakensberg Grand Traverse. “This has been on all of our to-do lists forever and it seems a great opportunity to throw us all together and bond.” The team plans to start on Tuesday, 11th November. The current record sits at 110 hours. Full details to follow.
Other team sponsors include PVM Nutritional Science, Giant Bicycles, Squirt Bicycle Lube, Glider Eyewear, Island Tribe Sunscreen and Black Diamond head torches.