Merrell withdraw from AR World Champs after Knysna fires

Merrell Adventure Addicts, adventure racing, Knysna fires, news, Expedition Africa 2016

The Merrell Adventure Addicts will do what they’ve always done in the face of adversity – soldier on. Expedition Africa 2016. Photo: Peter Kirk

When life gives you lemons, you make lemon pie, we all know that. When life sends the massive #KnysnaFires to destroy your home along with everything you own and burn down your pine plantations and livelihood, it can be difficult to find that pie recipe amidst the smouldering ashes.

So we poked around and found another metaphor: The hardest/toughest/ finest steel is forged in the hottest fire. 

And this, we feel, is much more applicable to South Africa’s formidable Adventure Racing team, who we can refer to going forward and following this latest adversity, as the Merrell ‘Metal’ Addicts.

Rebuilding our lives

With the complete devastation of personal and business property to deal with, the team has reluctantly withdrawn from the 2017 AR World Championships to be held in August in USA.

“With just six weeks to go, and with the last two already up in smoke, neither Hanno nor myself can apply ourselves properly to training. There’s just too much restorative work to be done here,” said captain Graham Bird. “And we’re a competitive team. Out of respect to our teammates, sponsors and supporters, we don’t want to go in half arsed and unable to give it our best. None of us will be content with just an ‘attendance award’.”

Merrell Adventure Addicts, adventure racing, Knysna fires, news, Graham Bird

The aftermath around Graham Bird’s home after the Knysna fires.

Other things to look forward to

“Merrell have always encouraged us to ‘do what’s natural’, and right now that is to rebuild our lives. But it’s only a temporary pause in our sporting lives. So instead of competing right now, we’re planning to set up and host adventure training camps around the country where we can help to develop the sport in South Africa.”

Graham has already committed to staging an epic old school style expedition race in the Western Cape later this year.  It is ironically perhaps, known as Vasbyt, which has garnered much interest from old and new racers keen for a fresh all out adventure experience. The team has also secured an entry to the 2018 Godzone event in NZ in February, which fills every racer’s bucket list and has them excited all over again.

For Tracey Campbell and Grant Ross it’s a bitter disappointment to miss out on racing their first World Championships.“Sometimes life throws you challenges that are bigger, tougher and more emotional than any adventure race ever could,” said Tracey. “I was really excited to race with these legends but I know our time will come. If anything this situation has taught me to be grateful for everything you have, you could lose it all in a heartbeat.”

“Gutted,” agreed Grant. “The excitement was palpable, My body was feeling good and we were amped to give it a good crack. But circumstances like this are always a great perspective checker. The fact that all my team mates are still in one piece and healthy following the fires, is what I am most grateful for. Anything else becomes relatively trivial. There are some things in life you cannot control, and I believe this came about for a reason.

When we get the opportunity to race again, and we are all in the best physical and mental state, I look forward to seeing what we are capable of against the best in the world.”

A broken dream. What’s left of a bicycle after Knysna fires.

Starting from scratch

Hanno ‘Houtkapper’ Smit couldn’t be reached for comment. He’s working flat out in the field, and has just two months to harvest many hectares of burnt pine trees in order for them to still be viable for market.

Tweet manages to be both practical and philosophical: “We’re definitely not sitting around licking our wounds. I’m going to take the opportunity right now to have a small knee operation so I can be fully recovered asap and back on my bike. Fortunately three of us had just ordered new Giant bikes and they were still safe in the shop, not in my garage where all the rest of our team gear perished!

And, much as I hate race bibs, I had all of mine from every race hung up there, each with its own special memories. They can’t be replaced; we will just have to go and gather new ones!”

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