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The eighth edition of the Roving Race, RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 began early on Saturday morning with the customary competitor briefing and check-in at the Swisshotel, in the host city of Quito. RacingThePlanet founder Mary Gadams kicked things off by welcoming the competitors from 37 different countries. With 69 per cent of the field returning competitors, there were plenty of familiar faces in the crowd, including 19 members of the 4 Deserts Club. Canadians Paul Borlinha and Stan Lee got a special mention as the two competitors who have completed the Grand Slam Plus (4 Deserts and the Roving Race in a single calendar year).


Samantha Fanshawe, President of Events, introduced the event management team – Event Director Riitta Hanninen, Event Manager Zeana Haroun and Checkpoint Captain Tony Brammer – as well as Medical Director, Dr. Avinash Patil.Competitor check-in then opened and it was a hive of activity as the competitors moved through each of the mandatory stations, with the medical team and volunteers – each kitted out in RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 white t-shirts and blue jackets – weighing bags, checking equipment and making sure competitors had their bibs and timing chips. 


All eyes were on the scales to see which competitor would have the lightest – and the heaviest – bag. American Ralph Crowley, who has participated in past races as both a volunteer and competitor and who is one of the top contenders here in Ecuador, had the lightest pack, weighing in at 6 kg. Conversely, it was Lee, whose backpack came in at 19.5 kg, who had the heaviest bag. Lee, competing in his 12th race, was deliberate in his approach and his extra treats are sure to come in handy during the race.


Food was one of the stories of the day, with many competitors packing their Expedition Foods freeze-dried meals in their favourite flavours. Treats, of course, were also on display, with a variety of competitors showing off what they’d pack for various stages, including the Long March on Stage 5. Candy and potato chips were precious commodities as was good quality instant coffee. The Japanese contingent packed cake frosting, although it was still unclear whether that treat would be polished off at Camp 1 or they would wait until the occasion arose later in the week. 


Fashion hardly gets a mention at a 4 Deserts Series / Roving Race, but Pauline Leveque of France sported a fresh manicure in the colours of the French flag to celebrate the event. 


Following a filling lunch, which included the last fruit and vegetables that most competitors will eat for a week, the competitors departed for Camp 1 just after 2 p.m., arriving a little over two hours later at the picturesque site. Camp 1, the Foothills in the Cotopaxi, is set 3,350 m above sea level. With a stunning view of the snow-capped volcano, which measures more than 6,000 m above sea level, competitors spent time taking in the breath-taking view and, for those who sacrificed the extra bit of weight, capturing the moment for posterity on camera.


As the weather began to cool, competitors were welcomed by a traditional band playing folk music on traditional instruments, including the quena (a traditional flute of the Andes) and charango (a small stringed instrument).


Competitors spent the rest of the day and evening relaxing and getting to know their tent mates, before a tasty potato soup arrived to warm everyone up and set them up for tomorrow’s Stage 1.

A breathtaking opening stage sets the scene for Ecuador 2015


Norwegian Ake Fagereng led competitors back to Camp 2, winning a breathtaking Stage 1 at RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015. Fagereng crossed the line at 12:10:33, giving him a 8 minute 42 second lead over second placed Mark Walton from New Zealand. The first female competitor to camp today was Britain’s Sarah Sawyer, who crossed the finish line at 13:45:15, and in 15th place in the overall standings.


“The last 13 km were horrible. It just felt very, very long, but the first 3 sections were okay,” Fagereng said seconds after crossing today’s finish line. 


South Africa-based Fagereng is no stranger to distance challenges. He has spent a decade on trails and mountain races around the world, and taken part in International Association of Ultrarunners sanctioned races. This is Fagereng’s second 4 Deserts Series / Roving Race event, with the university lecturer having received his first taste in Iceland in 2013 where he finished a highly credible 6th.


One place ahead of him then – and one place behind him at the end of Stage 1 today – was American Ralph Crowley, who finished the stage at 12:27:23. Following Sawyer home in the women’s competition was German Magdalena Dombek at 14:38:15, while the first team to make it back to camp was The Inconceivables, who arrived two minutes later at 14:40:38. The oldest competitor in this Roving Race, 70-year-old Yoshiaki Ishaihara, finished in 101st place, arriving at 16:44:00.


It was breathtaking first day’s challenge – in more ways than one. Competitors faced a day of work at high altitude in the foothills of Cotopaxi. Across a largely hard-packed track, the 135 starters took a scenic 47.7-km journey that peaked at 3,350 metres above sea level and dipped as low as 2,889 metres above sea level.


While the trail was in good condition and the weather sunny, the final section of the day on a single track towards the Tilipulo Monastery presented an unconventional challenge to many runners – cacti. Competitors were forced to straddle infestations of the spiny plants, many of which had thankfully been rendered harmless by course sweepers removing their needles. 


While the majority of the day was bathed in sunlight and at a moderate temperature of 18° Celsius, competitors began the day with cool, still conditions. But by the 7:30 a.m. start time, the thick morning fog had burnt off.


As the stage began, Crowley and South Korean Dongchae Shin were out to an early lead. The first section of the course included steady inclines on dirt roads for about 10 km and presented few challenges before the trail broke left to reveal a spectacular view of Cotopaxi, an active volcano about 50 km south of the Ecuadorian capital of Quito.


On course, competitors were also treated to alpine scenery, village scenes and a river crossing. But for the vast majority of competitors, today was less about enjoying the scenery and more about experiencing the punishment of running at altitude. “It's a whole different ball game in this altitude. I arrived in Quito a week earlier, practised in a chamber and am still feeling it,” said Canadian Mat Lefevre. The 42-year-old from Ottawa is competing in his third 4 Deserts Series / Roving Race.


First-time competitor Richard Scott joked with volunteer Cindy Drinnan at the stage’s Checkpoint 2, saying: “I’m competing for last place!”


The competitors also drew out crowds of local villagers. Halfway between the third and fourth checkpoints many children from Quechua-speaking villages came out to watch the competitors pass, running alongside them and cheering.  


All competitors have made camp for the night within the walled monastery ahead of tomorrow’s Stage 2, the Journey to Illiniza.

Strongest competitors show true colours on a tricky Ecuador stage


The leaders emerged and began showing their class during an eventful Stage 2 of RacingThePlanet:Ecuador 2015. Overnight leader Ake Fagereng led competitors out and home in blustery, cloudy conditions today. The Norwegian crossed the finish line at 1:07 p.m., leading home New Zealander Paul Hewtson, and Americans Charlie Engle and Ralph Crowley. 


Sarah Sawyer continues to lead the women’s category, winning Stage 2 by crossing at 2:55 p.m. in 22nd overall with her husband Tom, followed by Heather-Lynne Jablonowski, 34th overall, and Kate Hogan Edwards. Hogan Edwards and her team, The Inconceivables, were beaten home –just – by Team Quebec.


After a calm night within the restful surrounds of Tilipulo Monastery, sprits were noticeably elevated among today’s 130 starters after a cold – yet warmer – night in camp. The Norwegian ace Fagereng battled early on in the 42.7-km stage with Hewtson. The Kiwi from Wellington is competing in a 4 Deserts Series / Roving Race event for the first time.


After the first 11km of the day, a largely gravel track across pasture and through rose farms, Hewtson led Fagereng by a handful of metres at the day’s first checkpoint. 


“I want you to know that I have 20 years and 2kg on this guy,” the 52-year-old good naturedly told on-course officials as he moved through the checkpoint.


At the first checkpoint, reports of fog further along the course saw competitors ordered to turn on flashing red safety light. The request sparked some frantic scenes, with at least one digging through their backpack and repacking in record time.


Visibility was limited all day, with heavy cloud cover unfortunately robbing competitors from the typically spectacular views of Cotopaxi, Chimborazo and Illinizas volcanoes.


There were glimpses of the volcanoes in the distance from today’s course, a gravel path passing through the villages of Pualo and Cochapamba. The locals have been out in force, taking photographs with the competitors and taking time to chat with competitors at the camp.


Today’s course switch backed upwards some 1,302 metres and downhill by 861 metres over the day, with one section a single-person trail with a wall on one side and a steep drop on the other. 


At 11:45 a.m. it was Fagereng leading Hewtson through the checkpoint. Through the tight final section of the day and its steep descent into Camp 3, Fagereng held the lead, making camp at 1:07 p.m. with Hewtson 10 minutes behind, and Engle crossing at 1:38 p.m.


As Fagereng approached Camp 3, so did a pick-up truck and despite the wind, the loud music could be heard clearly – it was the local ice-cream truck!


Mark Walton of New Zealand said of the last stretch: "When I was coming up that last hill I saw Ralph in front of me. The only view I had for way too long was of his behind." He finished fifth in the stage and is now third overall, behind Fagereng and Hewtson. 


David Grosse from England, placed 94th, said: "This is my sixth RacingThePlanet race and, apart from the long days, today was the longest I have ever been on the course. It was tough."


It was a day with many hills, many of them uphill. Ashley Burke, who came in 17th overall, said: "Everyone was saying how tough the hills were, but this is my thing. I loved it."


Luis Cabrera of Colombia was happy to arrive at 6 p.m., still in daylight, saying that the uphills were hard but impressive. Dorothy Lam of Hong Kong was the last competitor to arrive at camp, just after 8 p.m. 


As the competitors bed down for the night at the Camp of the Condors in a farmer's field near a small village temperatures are falling and they are preparing for a chilly night ahead.

Competitors in love with blue skies, great trails on Stage 3


Dry conditions, grass underfoot and spectacular scenery provided welcome relief for competitors on today’s Stage 3of RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015. Reports from the course suggested that all of the competitors seemed to love today’s track. There was singing but we’ve been unable to confirm if there was any dancing.


 “It's the first stretch of real running since the start,” said Sinagpore-based Martin Moisen of as he stormed through Checkpoint 3.


Doina Nugent from Ireland agreed, saying it was a fitting reward after two difficult days.


As the event nears The Long March, the leaders of this edition of the Roving Race have generally extended the distance from the pack. Norwegian Ake Fagereng made it a hat-trick of stages, winning Stage 3 and arriving at Camp 4 at 12:58 p.m. – after just under five hours on the course. He was followed home by Ralph Crowley and Paul Hewitson.


In the women’s category, Sarah Sawyer maintained her lead, placing 16th overall when she arrived at camp at 2:09 p.m. In the teams’ competition, The Inconceivables were first home at 2:56 p.m., ahead of Team Quebec at 3:39 p.m.


The 41.7-km course today was mostly moderate, with undulating sections through pasture and farmlands that offered a spongy surface for the competitors. 


The brilliance of the day ahead was nowhere to be seen back at the Camp of the Condors. Waking up to fog and rain was not the motivation competitors were looking for at the outset of today’s Stage 3. But, by the 8 a.m. start time, the 124 competitors were in better spirits, with the sun higher in the sky and the prospect of a short first section on a trail following the historic footsteps of the Old Inca Trail, a path for messengers communicating between Inca settlements more than 1,000 years ago.


Crowley was officially the first person through Checkpoint 1 at 8:58 a.m. but six competitors were in hot pursuit less than 10 minutes behind.


“We are hoping for some sunshine and looking forward to hot coffee at the end of today. And once we reach the halfway mark we'll be happy,” said Briton Ben Davies, running with South African Desiree Cowie.


The pair would not have been disappointed by the grand spectacle of Ecuador’s volcanic hinterland, today’s river crossing and lush farmland.


At Checkpoint 3, halfway down a stunning, grassy track, 2,856 metres above sea level, Fagereng had won back the lead, with Hewitson and fellow Kiwi Mark Walton in hot pursuit.


“It's so beautiful, I wish everyone could see this trail,” German Uwe Paschke said as he entered Checkpoint 3 at 12:19 p.m.


For the final 10.7 km, through a valley and down to the Toachi River, the competitors were in high spirits. Dorothy Lam of Singapore was the last to clear the third checkpoint at 4:45 p.m. The sweepers and two beautiful local horses joined her on the switchbacks through the valley.


At camp, Team NZ crossed the finish line with Hamish Travers at 2:07 p.m. The Kiwis were signing their team song, thrilled to be in camp. “We will be bold, we will be strong, we will keep running all day long,” they sang.


They and their fellow competitors might need the enthusiasm for the challenges ahead.

Tough Stage 4 as the Long March Looms


New Zealand’s Paul Hewitson took his first stage win of RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015, coming into Camp 5 in the Guayama Grande school grounds after a tough day, which many equalled to the challenge of a long day. Hewitson arrived at 13:06 p.m., with American Ralph Crowley just three minutes behind him and Ake Fagereng of Norway, winner of the first three stages, in third at 13:20. 


Briton Sarah Sawyer continues to lead the women’s competition, arriving at Camp 5 in great spirits with German competitor Magdalena Dombek, who is second in the women’s competition. Sawyer’s husband Tom arrived soon after. The Inconceivables was the first team into Camp 5, with all members of the Hogan family looking great. 


A warmer night at lower altitude in a stunning meadow next to a Hacienda by the Toachi River meant that most competitors were able to get a better night’s rest. They’d need it too for the 40.4 km Stage 4 included an elevation gain of 1,985 metres. Tough, but spectacular was the motto of the day, with the final 6-km section into Camp 5 going along the ridge of the Quilota crater lake.  


At the 7:30 a.m. start, the race leaders were at the front of the start line, while Scotland’s Michael McKerrow was the last competitor to cross the start line, having ensured he was ready for the river crossing ahead. 


Fagereng led Crowley through Checkpoint 1, while Sawyer continued to lead the women through the first of the day’s checkpoints. A highlight of the course was the getting a glimpse of the spectacular Quilotoa crater lake with its turquoise waters, which Fergus Hogan-Edwards likened to Dr No’s spaceship in the James Bond film, You Only Live Once. While the steep hills of Stage 3 were tough, competitors were still making good time, with the first 50 having come through Checkpoint 3 by 2:30 p.m., with all competitors making it through the checkpoint by 4:30 p.m.


As competitors began to arrive at camp, they were greeted by local children who were banging drums to congratulate them on a omega replica uk job well done. Camp 5 is a village in the Guayama Grande, with competitors sleeping in the school’s classrooms and in the village hall. The cybertent – located in the village church – has been renamed the Cyberchurch. Of his night’s lodgings, JJ Van der Hoeven, who finished Stage 4 in sixth place, said: “that room is awesome!”


Competitors spent the remainder of the day relaxing in the grounds of the village, playing basketball, relaxing in their rooms or sitting by one of the fires in the main square. With the first four stages complete, the focus shifts to Replica Breitling Transocean tomorrow’s Long March, which will end much lower down in a semi-tropical spot. One hundred and seventeen competitors are expected to start tomorrow’s Stage 5.

The World through 3D: The Long March Concludes (Part 2)


Race leader Ake Fagereng of Norway won the Long March, finishing in a time of five hours and 45 minutes to retain his lead in RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 over New Zealand’s Paul Hewitson, who finished Stage 5 in six hours a 12 minutes. American Ralph Crowley was third in the stage, arriving less than a minute after Hewitson.


Hewitson said, “I love downhills, but not that steep and not that long. The terrain was stunning.” 


Leading woman Sarah Sawyer was the first female to finish Stage 5, finishing the stage in seven hours and 43 minutes and crossing the finish line 15th overall. The Inconceivables also maintained their lead in the team competition, completing the stage in eight hours and 29 minutes. With tomorrow’s short Stage 6, the leaders for the overall, women’s and team competition are likely to remain as they were today. 


Under perfect running conditions, American Charlie Engle, said Stage 5 had been his favourite thus far. “This stage was the most spectacular stage of the race so far, to go from high altitude to the cloud forest…unbelievable.”


By 11:27 p.m., 102 competitors had finished the stage, arriving at Camp 6, Camp La Argentina, which is nestled among a small village in the lush foothills of the Andes Mountains. As has become customary in the 4 Deserts / Roving Races, many competitors crossed the finish line into camp in pairs or in groups, with a group of eight competitors – which included Allister Kreft with his girlfriend Nicole Morgan, James Spence, Kim Hughes, Charles Cooper, Hamish Travers, Caroline Kirkendoll and Tim Lichtenstein – all arriving together just before 11:30 p.m. 


As competitors made their descent, the temperature gradually warmed and it was positively tropical by the time competitors arrived at Camp 6. To celebrate the jungle feel, a banana was offered to the competitors as they crossed the finish line, while people from the local village cheered the competitors in. 


Of the stage, Briton Paul Taylor said: “The world looked as though it was in 3D, if you went to watch a movie in the cinema and put on the glasses, it would be nowhere near as good as this.” 


Of particular note was the view at Checkpoint 5, which many described as looking like it was floating on clouds. The weather was constantly changing, moving from cloud to strong wind, to sunshine, back to cloud and then rain. 


While some competitors were cursing the rapid descent, others were breathing a sigh of relief, taking in the extra oxygen in the air with very step they descended. The downhill did take its toll on some knees and joints, but there was also an increase in more oxygen, which was a welcome break from the altitude at previous stages. Briton David Grosse said he felt such a high from the increased oxygen that he did not want to stop at any checkpoint to make the most of the feeling. Colombian German Bulla walked most of the last half of the stage with a slipper strapped on with duct tap to one foot, deeming it more comfortable than his running shoe. 


Stage 5 concluded just after 3 a.m. on Friday morning, with Dorothy Lam and Tiffany Wong, both of Hong Kong, crossing the finish line. Dong Chae Shin and his daughter Elizabeth, as well as Brazilian Carlos Dias, were just in front of them. 


All competitors who started Stage 5 concluded it and competitors spent the rest day relaxing around camp and enjoying the humid and tropical 27° Celsius weather. Competitors spent time in the Cybertent, examining their times to see whether it would be possible to move up (or conversely to move down) a place during tomorrow’s final, short Stage 6. With a river just a short walk away from camp, competitors were taking well-earned baths in the heart of the jungle. But the jungle environs were also somewhat tortuous – as hungry competitors ate their final calories of the week, they were surrounded by tress full of oranges, lemons, avocados and other fruit.


Stage 6 is set to begin at 7 a.m. on Saturday, August 1.



The Long March Begins (Part 1)


The Long March for RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 has begun. A signature of the 4 Deserts / Roving Races, the Stage 5 Long March is highly anticipated as the competitors tackle the longest stage of the seven-day race. In Ecuador it was no different as 116 starters prepared for what would be another stunning, but challenging stage. A late 10 a.m. start gave the competitors the added bonus on a lie-in at Camp 5, La Escuela (school) which was located in a village in the Guayama Grande. After four gruelling stages, the added rest was much welcomed.


At the morning briefing, the competitors learned a few more details of the 62-km stage, which is set to finish in a semi-tropical area. But first, a few steep hills. Seven checkpoints will take competitors down 3,000 metres through a cloud forest and into a warm, humid climate. Rain showers were forecast for the morning, while there was a brisk wind at the start. A cut-off time of 7 a.m. on Friday morning was set for the stage. 


Race leader Ake Fagereng of Norway is hoping to retain his lead over New Zealand’s Paul “Hewi” Hewitson and American Ralph Crowley. Hewitson is just 18 minutes behind the race leader, while Crowley is 40 minutes out of first place. In the women’s competition, Briton Sarah Sawyer has won all four stages, but Magdalena Dombek, Heather Jablonowski and Desiree Cowie are in sight. And in the team competition, a stiff rivalry has emerged between The Inconceivables (comprised of husband and wife Kate and Ferus Hogan-Edwards and Kate’s brother Mick Hogan) and Team Quebec (Lucie, Joel and Louis-Michel). 


As the competitors gathered at the start line, a fresh-looking Jeroen Touw of Holland said: “It’s a long way and I’ll take one step at a time.” Briton Andy Burns was feeling positive about the day after completing a tough Stage 4 where he took a minor tumble. The mood was upbeat and as the competitors made final preparations for the stage, one remarked: “It’s nice to know I can live without alcohol and Facebook for a week!” 


The first three competitors through Checkpoint 2 were Fagereng, who came in at 11:53 a.m., followed by Crowley and Hewitson at 11:58 a.m. As Crowley sprinted by, he shouted, “So just another marathon to go?”, while Hewitson barrelled through the checkpoint looking fresh, despite having tackled a hard climb. Perhaps the strong spirits were owed to the beautiful views, with the Quilotoa crater rim and last night’s village campsite in sight from the other side of the valley. All 116 competitors were through Checkpoint 2 by 3 p.m. 


Thirty competitors had passed through Checkpoint 4 by 2:30 p.m. The checkpoint was located in a stunning spot up high with vast views of the cloud forests on both sides. Mark Walton, who was the fourth person through the checkpoint, said: “This is really amazing. You run through ever-changing weather, the dry fields all of a sudden change into the cloud forests, the birds are amazing…This is great!”


Ake Fagereng wins RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015


Race leader Ake Fagereng of Norway won RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 today, crossing the finish line just 55 minutes after the 7 a.m. race start. The short 11-km Stage 6 took competitors through a jungle track, across four bamboo bridges and then a run into the town of Pucayacu, where the town’s inhabitants cheered the 116 competitors to the finish line. 


Following Fagereng across the line were Alexandre Lucas, Frode Lein, David Watson and Paul Taylor. The leading pack of Mark Walton, Ralph Crowley and Paul Hewitson – who had been in hot pursuit of Fagereng all week long – finished together in on hour and seven minutes, with all saying they loved the race and that they enjoyed the amazing scenery that Ecuador had to offer.


With Fagereng securing the overall title, Briton Sarah Sawyer won the women’s competition, finishing Stage 6.  


Proudly sporting their medals at the finish line, the winning team, the Inconceivables, debated who out of the three – husband and wife Fergus and Kate Hogan Edwards and Kate’s brother Mick Hogan – was the most tired. “I don’t know … me? I definitely worked the hardest,” Mick Hogan said, laughing. 


While the majority of the competitors began the stage at 7 a.m., a few at the back of the pack set out a half hour early at 6 a.m. By 10 a.m., the eighth edition of the Roving Race was complete, as Hong Kong-based Briton Mike Doering, who came into the stage in 48th position, crossed the finish line.


Celebrations and congratulations were underway early in the square, with medals given to all finishers, as well as some much breitling replica watches welcomed celebratory food and drinks. Some friends and family had arrived at Pucayacu to greet competitors with hugs and kisses, while others had devised their own unique celebrations. At the finish line, Italian Alessandro Carrara laid out the Italian and Ecuadorian flags on the ground and gave both a kiss. Friends of the Chinese competitors had brought with them a bottle of Champagne, uncorking it to give the competitors their first shower after completing the race. 


Colombian German Bulla was still carrying his pitcher from Camp 1 and was holding it with a smile, saying “I got my cerveza! And with not being able to finish Madagascar, I'm so happy with this race.”


With the race ending, many of the competitors were already discussing their next race, with reunions at RacingThePlanet: Sri Lanka and the Sahara Race (Namibia) in early 2016 as hot favourites. Following the celebrations at the Panerai replica watches uk finish line, competitors made their way back to Quito to wash up and get ready for tonight’s awards banquet.

The Awards Banquet


A celebration fit for the magnitude of the race that came before it closed out RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015, with an awards dinner at the Swisshotel in the host city of Quito. 


Alongside family and friends - some who had travelled the world over to congratulate their loved ones - competitors, volunteers and the medical, management, course and local management teams celebrated a successful end to the week's race.


Race winner Ake Fagereng was awarded his overall trophy for finishing the race in a fantastic time of 27:15:57, with Paul Hewitson (28:12:34) and Ralph Crowley (28:38:26), collecting their second and third-placed trophies, respectively. While each gave an acceptance speech worthy of his award, it was important to note that Hewitson - at 52 and in his first 4 Deserts / Roving Race - was 20 years older than Fagereng and Crowley, who are 33 and 30, respectively. Hewitson celebrated his result alongside his father and son, who had spent the week in the Galápagos Islands as Hewitson toiled on the trails.


In the women's competition, winner Sarah Sawyer gave a touching acceptance speech, dedicating her win to her husband. "This is surreal for me," said Sawyer, whose time of 35:25:38 placed her 17th overall. "I'm not usually one to win races. I want to reiterate that this is a great organization. I came here to run the race with my husband, Tom. He runs much faster than me, but he struggled a lot on the fourth day, so I did the last six miles on my own. He's been so great. This one is for you babe!"


Magdalena Dombek (36:56:44) collected her award for second place, while Heather-Lynne Jablonowski (43:03:05) was the third-fastest female.


The Inconceivables - the husband and wife team of Fergus and Kate Hogan Edwards and Kate's brother Mick Hogan - collected first place in the team's competition, having finished 31st overall, in a time of 39:31:05. Fergus, on behalf of the team, gave the acceptance speech, making sure to thank his brother-in-law Mick, who he had forgotten to acknowledge at this wedding. Heartfelt speeches were also given on behalf of Team Quebec and Team New Zealand, who were second and third, overall.


Swiss doctor Patrick Hilti won the race’s Sportsmanship Award for having stopped to help a fellow competitor in distress, losing his overall time and placing in the race. The Spirit Award went to the well-deserving Brazilian competitor Carlos Dias, who dealt with the endurance, hardship and a heavy pack with smiles and laughter throughout the course.


Following the overall awards came the age category awards, which yielded the added bonus of genuine surprise, as competitors often did not know they had won a category award. Among the winners was Charlie Engle, who was sixth overall and won the 50-60 age group category. Engle was the winner of the first-ever 4 Deserts race, the Gobi March 2003, and in thanking RacingThePlanet founder and CEO Mary Gadams, he reflected on the growth of the 4 Deserts / Roving Race community.


Event Director Riitta Hanninen thanked the course, medical and local teams including the excellent local drivers, while checkpoint captain Tony Brammer acknowledged the volunteers who did a great job in ensuring the race went to plan.


The formal portion of the evening was closed out by a stunning photo slideshow by photographer Zandy Mangold, whose iconic photos perfectly captured the week's race. Competitors had the opportunity to relive their hard-fought efforts and the stunning scenery of the course through Mangold’s unique lens, adding to the memories that will live on long after the competitors depart Ecuador. 

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