It's been a solid victory for New Zealand adventurers Team Seagate, led by champion multisporter Nathan Fa'avae, in the last two chapters of the Godzone adventure race and expectations are high that the team will once again take line honours for 2014.
The countdown is on for Godzone's Chapter 3 that gets under way this Saturday in the Kaikoura region. Race directors Adam Fairmaid and Warren Bates said teams should not expect any goodwill from the reigning champs.
"I don't think I really need to explain why Seagate are the favourites to win. My only real question at this stage is whether any of the other top five teams will get close enough to be within 12 hours of them," Bates said. "These guys are phenomenal and their one change with Stuart Lynch racing instead of Trevor Voyce is not expected to affect their outcome."
With an international field of 41 teams competing for the 2014 adventure racing title, Bates said the most common question he was asked was who was going to win and who were the top five contenders.
"I'll be honest, this is not something I give a huge amount of consideration to because when it comes to the so called ‘elites' I am more concerned with what times they will do over certain sections of the race. Because we are constantly moving from one discipline to the next, that is what puts the most stress on race logistics and staff."
Many of the leading contenders in the 500+ km race are in top form and Bates said his money was on several teams to be jostling for a podium finish. Team R&R Sport Torpedo with Richard Anderson, Simon Bowden, Joanna Williams and Bob MacLachlan are one of his picks.
"They look like they have what it takes this year, having improved greatly over the past two events. Jo Williams would grace any top adventure team in the world and they have great team spirit which can often be overlooked by other teams."
The highly experienced adventure team Kathmandu XT is also rated with a lineup of adventure racing legends and past Southern Traverse winners Kate Callaghan, George Christianson, Neil Jones and led by Duncan Hamilton.
"These guys have what it takes to take out this event but will they manage it? My question is, will they walk around trees on the course or simply push them over? These are the sort of names to grace any New Zealand adventure racing coffee book and Adam Fairmaid reckons other teams should not even think about getting in their way."
With seven days of non-stop racing around the greater Kaikoura region, the teams will have their work cut out for them with long sections of serious navigation to tackle. Bates said experience and age were two important components when trying to predict the top five.
"One of the wonderful aspects of this sport is that adventure racers often do not reach their peak until into their 40s. Well known adventure racer Jim Cotter and his team Chimpanzee Bar, including Lara Prince, Petr Sykora and Milan Brodina, fit this category. With his record at the Southern Traverse, Jim more than anyone knows that training is key and they look to be well prepared and will be highly competitive."
Other teams to catch the race directors' eyes are Team Orion with Fleur Pawsey, Tom Lucas, Wayne Oxenham and Carl Bevins and American team Checkpoint Zero. "Also the younger team, Bivouac Colts and Christchurch-based Sia Svendsens Team Vida de Adventura all have potential to race at the front of the field but they will have to use all their skill and determination to reach a top-five position in my humble opinion," Bates said.
Teams will start to arrive in Kaikoura today in time for tomorrow's registration at the Kaikoura Memorial Hall. The adventure course will remain a secret until just before the race gets under way.