x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Thule teams Ussher new era for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge

The Usshers dominate the podium with a record-breaking fourth consecutive title as all 48 teams, including 8 from the UAE, cross the finish line.

France's Vibram Lafuma 1 team carefully manoeuvres through Jebel Hafeet's rugged terrain. 

Courtesy Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge
France's Vibram Lafuma 1 team carefully manoeuvres through Jebel Hafeet's rugged terrain. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge

The Thule Adventure Team - led by three-time winners Richard and Elina Ussher - crossed the finish line for a fourth consecutive victory in the gruelling Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge.

The final stage of the largest-ever Challenge, a 33km kayak route around Lulu Island, saw the combined paddle power of Thule Adventure Team clinch the new-look six-day endurance race among 48 teams from 18 countries.

All 30 rookie teams - including two female-dominated teams - that entered the world's most international endurance race also made it to the finish. The eight UAE teams 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 Sheikh, 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.

With the husband-wife duo of Richard and Elina at the front, the Thule Adventure Team finished in an overall time of 45 hours 44 minutes and 47 seconds. 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.

In the battle for local bragging rights, the 2XU Blackberry team topped the eight-team UAE line-up, securing 15th place overall with a time of 58h14m56s - 18 hours ahead of next best local quartet, EcoRacers, who finished 30th in a time of 76h18m21s.

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 of Thule Adventure Team Europe expressed his satisfaction but 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 lauded the prowess of the uber Usshers. "Talk about professionalism," he added. "They live on adventure races. Nevertheless, they're unbelievable!"