Raid Gallaecia Gets It Right

Raid Gallaecia is over for another year and the organising team have managed to pull off the difficult task of producing a race which every team found challenging, but one which was achievable and had a high completion rate on the full course. 

The last full course World Series team to finish was a relatively inexperienced team from Holland, yet they came into the finish line 24 hours ahead of the course closure time.  The leaders finished the race just inside the predicted time of 76 hours, helped a little by the exceptionally good weather, which is far from typical in this coastal area exposed to Atlantic weather.  That’s a difficult balancing act to achieve while keeping everyone happy, which the teams all seem to be.

Bjorn Rydvall took the time to shake Race Director Pablo Lopez by the hand and congratulate him on the course on the finish line, saying; “It was one of the best courses I’ve raced on, from many all over the world, and we could see the work which went into the maps and the course.”

It isn’t just Lopez who makes it happen of course, he has a big team, including the course director and safety manager Jose Balseiro and the Logistics Manager Victor Picos. The best Race Directors are those who build the best teams around them, not the ones who try to do it all themselves.

Speaking on the finish line Lopez said, “The timings were good and it was more calm this year with not so many teams and the logistics was easier with longer stages.” Driving around the course to find teams and report on the race I found it was ‘relatively’ easy with less time spent travelling than on other expedition races.  The course was planned with some big ‘out and back’ routes for the teams to help with this, and the fact Gallaecia has such a big road and track network helped with logisitics. 

It’s not something dot-watchers will ever consider as they gaze at their screens, but it is one of the many things an organizer has to get right to keep those dots moving.

The complexity of the road and trail network here is a double edged sword for the race. It makes the navigation challenging, as teams have said throughout the race, and a good race needs that element.  (One team even withdrew saying it was beyond them.)  However, it does add a lot more work to the race preparation as the planning team working on the ground has to check what is really there and the mapping team use OCAD software to update and redraw many details on the maps.

Another element of the race teams have praised are the transitions.  Quite a few racers here run their own events, and one is Carles Domingo Dilmer of Aventure X-perience. I asked him if he had learned anything he can take to his own race while participating and he said, “Yes, always, though our race is at a different level so not everything here is possible for us.  Here I found the transitions were something at a higher level. They were all under cover with good facilities and when we came into the first one I was amazed, lots of people from the town were there cheering us on by name and I have never experienced that before. The announcer was encouraging us and the atmosphere was exciting. The way they provided two hot meals for us at transitions was good too and so were the staff, we could tell they cared for us.” (I spoke to him before he went to the team hotel, and that too is of a very high standard.)

It helps that Raid Gallaecia takes place in the same region every time.  (Most expedition races move around their country.) The organizers here know the region inside out and have the right connections, so at all of the places the race stopped along the way the local councils were sponsors and providing support.  (Sometimes a town is surprised to find a race is passing though and the comment from residents that ‘I never knew that was happening’ is all too common.) 

The course itself had a good balance and for once the trekking stages were not the crux of the race but they were varied, as was the whole course. There was coastal and hill trekking, and orienteering, and on the water there river and sea paddling (and the SUP stage). The mountain biking stages were both different, but mostly on tracks, and the waterfall checkpoints on the final ride showed the attention to detail the planners put in. There were ropes and caving stages and you could see that each stage was thought about as a journey in its own right, as well as part of the overall race.

So, another successful Raid Gallaecia is over and it was a master class in organizing an expedition adventure race.  I’m sure the teams will go back home with positive memories of Gallaecia and the race, and will hopefully encourage others to come next time.  The race deserves, and probably needs, more than 18 teams to support a world class competition and the level of work that goes into it. 

(If you’ve watched the race and been inspired or thought ‘maybe next time’ get in touch with them and let them know you are interested. The race currently takes place every two years in May.)

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