Thule win fourth straight Adventure crown

ABU DHABI - The largest-ever Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, a gruelling, six-day endurance race, ended in record-breaking fashion on Wednesday as Thule Adventure Team, led by three-time winners Richard and Elina Ussher, crossed the Abu Dhabi city finish line for a fourth consecutive victory in the multi-discipline event.

With 48 teams from 18 countries starting the final stage, a 33-km kayak route around Lulu Island, the combined paddle power of Thule Adventure Team clinched the Oceaniaa ninth straight section win in the new-look race.

Elsewhere, all 30 rookie teams, including two female-dominated teams, that entered the world’s most international endurance race also made it to the finish, accompanied by eight UAE teams that also survived the epic, east-to-west journey through Abu Dhabi’s breathtaking landscape.

“A race of this nature deserves a momentous finish and we certainly got that,” said Faisal Al Shaikh, events manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which is behind the Challenge. “For so many firsts to be set and so many records to fall in the event’s fourth year underlines how the Abu Dhabi Challenge is improving with every edition that we stage. The fact that 48 teams, including all the rookies, came back safely after six days of heart-stopping adventure and endurance racing demonstrates how this unique event is improving international standards and developing the domestic talent pool and pedigree of endurance athletes,” he added.

Al Shaikh reserved special praise for the husband and wife duo of Usshers, who, amazingly, remain undefeated in the event’s four-year history.

“Congratulations to Richard and Elina and the rest of the Thule Adventure Team on their unbelievable triumph — every year they find a speed which others can only marvel at. Let’s not forget the efforts of everyone else though; it is through the work of our participants, organisers and various supporting organisations that the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge has evolved in to an increasingly visible date on the international sporting stage,” added Al Shaikh.

With Thule Adventure Team — Marcel Hagener and Nathan Fa’avae claimed back-to-back wins after their participation alongside the Usshers in 2009 — finishing in an overall time of 45h44m47s, the French squad of Thule Adventure Team Europe and the Swiss Wenger team grabbed maiden podium finishes by finishing in 47h08m08s and 47h39m01s, respectively. Brits Adidas Terrex and Swedish rookies Netcompetence rounded out the top five.

Having crossed the line more than 80 minutes ahead of their European Thule namesakes, Ussher was visibly elated at topping all nine sections of the new-look course.

“This team are heroes,” said Ussher. “The universal camaraderie, energy and will to win just cannot be measured. It is always special to win a race, but to do so four times in a row is unbelievable. We’ve had a fantastic week together and the race’s new-look format was a thrilling experience. We need to see more of races of such diversity elsewhere around the world.”

Jacky Boisset, Thule Adventure Team Europe express his satisfaction with clinching the runners-up position and immediately lay down the gauntlet to Ussher and co. ahead of the 2011 race.

“We are very happy as this year’s second place is better than all our previous results,” said Boisset. “If we won the race, there would probably be no reason for us to come back. We’ll be back to do it again next year and we’ll do everything we can to beat Ussher’s team. The strategy for 2011 is just one word: win.”

After securing third, Bernhard Hug, the Wenger team captain, commended his squad’s consistency over the six days energy-sapping days.

“I never expected to reach the podium and we are very proud we did, especially in third – it’s unbelievable,” said Hug. “It was hard to be motivated today after a full day’s rest yesterday, so to get that consistency of performance back straight away is no small achievement.”

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