Continental National Adventure Race Series 2019 Review

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Continental National Adventure Race Series 2019 Review

Back in February we were delighted to share the exciting announcement that premium tyre manufacturer Continental had agreed to be title partner of the Irish National Adventure Race Series in conjunction with Series founders Multisport Adventure Ireland and promotion partner Kayathlon. This was a huge
boost for our sport and there were brilliant prizes up for grabs for the series winners, some other lucky winners throughout the year also picked up some  Adidas trail runners and Continental bike tyres!

2019 was a brilliant year of racing…the series began in March of this year at Quest Kenmare and there have been 11 events in the series overall from Dingle to Donegal and from West Cork to Glendalough. The Continental National Adventure Race Series comprises of two categories for both male and female… the Expert Series competitors race in the longer events (3-4 hours typically) and the Sport Series competitors’ race in a shorter race (1:40-2 hours typically). There are male and female champions in both categories, points are awarded to competitors for their final position in the series events with 5 race
scores to count towards final total and the competitors gaining most points from 5 events are crowned national champions. We had some amazing days out in some of the most picturesque parts of the country. The competition in all categories was phenomenal this year and it took serious commitment, determination and talent to make the top 3.

Well done to everybody who took part in all or any of the events this year, we look forward to another great series in 2020. The 2019 Continental National Adventure Race Series winners were officially presented with their trophies by Tom Dennigan of Continental Tyres Ireland at a presentation hosted by Series sponsors Continental Tyres Ireland, MultiSport Adventure Ireland and Kayathlon.

Huge congratulations to the winners, and thanks to Continental Tyres for their support through the year, we think it’s fantastic partnership and look forward to continued support in 2020.

Quest Kenmare – 02/03/19

The 2019 season kicked off with a bang in Kenmare for the first of 4 Quest Ireland Events in the Series.

The town was plunged into darkness the night before due to a power cut and many of the participants had to take shelter in some of the local taverns and inns where there was plenty of refreshments available by candlelight while Ollie Kirwan and his team worked through the darkness to get everything ready for an early morning start.

Heavy downpours in the days preceding the race provided some testing conditions for the participants. Wind and rain was the order of the day but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the 1,500 participants as they tackled Molls Gap, a very muddy Esk Mountain, Bonane heritage park and parts of the Kerry way but the
racing was epic!!

In the men’s expert an early break from Mark Nolan saw him finish in 1st place and in the women’s race Ellen Vitting chalked up the first of what would be 4 wins for the year.

In the women’s sport race Niamh Garvey raced to victory in a sprint finish with only a minute separating the top 3 and only 10 seconds between first and second!

In the mens sport race Gary Lawlor and Philip Smith had an amazing duel and were side by side all day but Gary just edged it by seconds in another sprint finish. One of our favourite races of the year, we cant wait for Quest Kenmare 2020!

Quest Glendalough – 06/04/19

Round 2 of the Continental National Adventure Race Series took us to Quest Glendalough.

There were traces of snow at the top of the mountain but the competitors were basking in the sunshine in Laragh at the finish line. The famous river crossing pontoon had moved this year closer to Laragh GAA pitch and the extra couple of kms along the greenway to the finish stretched a few people towards their breaking point!

There was to be no sprint finish in the women’s sport this time as Donna Mahon had plenty to spare crossing the finish line and in the men’s sport it was a Cavan CKR 1-2-3 as Niall Smith became the first of the 2018 National Champions to take a race win in 2019.

Ellen Vitting once again had the measure of the rest of the field and made it 2 wins from 2 starts in the women’s expert race while in the men’s Mark Nolan also made it 2 wins from 2 starts.

This event saw the first visit of Series sponsor Continental to one of the events and a few lucky participants won themselves some trial runners and bike tyres at the finish line! It also marked the first outing of the Continental ‘shoe-bike’…a beast of a thing to cycle but quite the eyecatcher!

WAAR – Wild Atlantic Adventure Race – 11/05/19

Donegal bound for the first ‘standalone’ sport event in the Series…the Wild Atlantic Adventure Race. With only a short technical mountain section on stage 3 this course was likely to be very fast and the leaders covered the first stage 10k run in under 37 minutes which was a sign of how fast and fierce the competition was!

Offering the chance to run on the live runway of Donegal Airport and across Mullaghderg beach this is one of the most picturesque courses in the country. Possibly one of the best organized events we have ever taken part in and this event is a fantastic addition to the National Series Calendar.

With the National Series contenders taking part, a very strong local field and lots of local pride at stake it was no surprise to see that the course record had to be broken to secure a win here.

Outstanding performances by Shaun Stewart and Siobhan Gallagher saw them take the wins and keep the trophies in Donegal! A fine 2nd place finish from Niamh Garvey saw her strengthen her place at the top of the series leaderboard with her 3rd podium in a row…and 4th place finish from Niall Smith saw him overtake Philip Smith at the top of the points table. Stick this event on your to-do list for 2020.

Dingle Adventure Race – 08/06/19

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, the hordes of Adventure Racers descended on Dingle at the start of June and as usual a mighty day and night was had! 2019 saw the last outing of the famous DAR Full course. Although one of the shortest courses in the expert series the opening cycle up Conor Pass and the 952 meters of vertical ascent on the 10k Mt Brandon climb made this one of the toughest course out there. While we won’t miss the soul destroying final 10k run back in to Dingle (believe it or not there are some strange people who enjoy that 10k run….you know who you are!!) we will miss the climb from Cloghane up to Brandon from the East…but we have had a preview of the new course and its going to be awesome and bring in the sights of Slea Head which was usually reserved for the Sport participants!

In the women’s expert race Laura O’Driscoll defied the laws of nature and recovery and stormed to victory, having only just completed a mammoth race at The Beast in NI the week before (maybe it was that godforsaken last 10km run that did it!) and so chalked up her first win of 2019.

In the men’s expert race the first outing in the National Series for the Scully brothers saw them complete a powerful 1-2 finish, something which would become a familiar sight over the course of the year. A feature of this race was the some questionable kayaking and various competitors’ evacuation of the kayak, the sit in kayak is a different beast to a sit on kayak.

In the women’s sport race Orlaith Smith had a fine win and Catherina Hallahan marked her name as a competitor to watch coming in not far behind in second place. Another Cavan 1-2 in the men’s race with Niall Smith taking the win from Kieran Cosgrove and Des Kennedy rounded out the podium in a very competitive race. We look forward to see how the new course work out in June ‘20.

Gaelforce West – 22/06/19

Round 4 of the expert series brought the return of Gaelforce West to the National Series. In its 14th year this magnificent event is a testing challenge for all levels of athletes.

There wasn’t much separating the leading bunch by the time they crossed Killary Fjord but descending off the Sheffrey Pass 2018 national champion Shaun Stewart who was in second place and chasing hard unfortunately crashed breaking his collarbone and ending his season. Thankfully Shaun has made a great recovery and hopefully we see him back racing in 2020.

Shane Scully raced to his second win of the season and a brilliant performance by Sebastien Giraud saw him take 2nd place with Dessie Duffy pipping
Luke McMullan for the last podium spot.

Laura O’Driscoll continued her fine form with a commanding win with Aine Mahony and Collette Sweeney taking 2nd and 3rd. A must do event on
any aspiring adventure racers calendar make sure you join us back there in June 2020!!

Race 2 Glory – 13/07/19

A firm favourite in the Sport Series this 40k course is designed by Padraig Marrey (who was part of the legendary gallant band of 11 warriors who each made 12 ascents of Croagh Patrick in 24hrs back in 2011…a powerful bunch of runners). The first 10k run features the interestingly named Spankers hill, short and
steep but you’re rewarded with super views at the top. No kayak in this race but you’ll still get wet as the final stage feature a short run through the Glore river which always seems to be the favourite part of the course!!!

The women’s race was won with a brilliant performance by Aileen McNamara but 2nd and 3rd that day by Lisa Clerkin and Niamh Cleary was an indication that there was going to be some fierce competition for the series title in the remaining 4 events.

In the mens race a phenomenal display on the bike by Jonathon Caulfield saw his take the honours and even some strong running from Des Kennedy couldn’t
make up the gap so had to settle for 2 second places from 2 start and local Mayo man Dwyane Flynn rounded off the podium.

This is always a well supported race and one of the best value events in the country…we really enjoyed this one, and we’ll be back!

Off The Bloom – 17/08/19

An expert only course this event was another first timer event the national series and brought competitors in a loop from the village of Kinnitty through the Slieve Bloom Mountains and back to Kinnitty. A flat out sprint of 1km to the bike transition set the tone for the race and its was foot to the floor for the whole way around.

A bike heavy course interrupted by a 10km testing mountain trial run, Shane Scully broke from the pack on the second bike stage and put in a too big gap to be caught and claimed his third win in a row and left us in no doubt of his credentials to take the National title. He was followed home by his brother Gary and in third place Barry Cronin who at this point it the season had begun to feature more regularly in the top 3. Past the halfway point in the series some fine consistent performances had seen Darren Quinn take over the leaderboard and Mark Pinfield, Garry Carroll and Seb Giraud were all showing fine form.

In the women’s race it was all looking very familiar at the top. The main overall series contenders Laura O’Driscoll and Ellen Vitting once again battled it out and although the bike biased course should have favored Ellen it was Laura who reigned supreme here making it 3 wins in a row and taking her back to the top of the overall table. Ger Kelly got the better of Aine Mahony to take the last podium spot.

Kayathlon was well represented at this event and we even managed to pick up a new clock for the office in the Sport race.

Quest Lough Derg – 14/09/19

The announcement of a brand spanking new event in Lough Derg on the Clare/Tipp border sparked our full attention and so in September we took the M7 and headed for Killaloe/Ballina to check out the newest event from the Quest Team. We weren’t disappointed and treated to a fine day of racing in a very spectacular
setting. A feature of this course was the famous Quest pontoon which was upgraded to scan the breadth of the river Shannon, apparently the first bridge built across the Shannon in many many years and the longest temporary bridge in Europe…or something like that?.

In the men’s expert race an early break from Shane Scully in his own backyard he was never going to be caught and so it was 4 wins from 4 starts, another 1-2 as Gary Scully finished in second and Barry Cronin held a 10 second gap from Killian Heery for the final km across the pontoon to the finish for 3rd.

In the women’s expert race Laura O’Driscoll also made it a 4th win in a row and Rosy Temple picked up second place with Karen Shannon claiming a well deserved podium spot.

Only 2 weeks after a 2nd place finish at Quest 12 Philip Smith claimed his first win of the year in the sport race with Niall Smith and Bernard Smith finishing strong also.

In the women’s sport race Lisa Clerkin was continuing her rise to the top and a flawless race saw her crossing the line with 6 minutes to
spare. Niamh Cleary also had been improving with every race and picked up 2nd with Orlaith Smith in 3rd.

After a mighty day racing the Continental National Adventure Race Series points tables were starting to take shape. Darren Quinns reign at the top of the expert table came to an end as another solid finish from Mark Pinfield saw him take over the top spot but all signs now pointed to Shane Scully completing a 5 in a row
the next race out and claiming the title. Laura O’Driscoll was back on top of the women’s expert and the Sport Series in both men’s and women’s was wide open with 3 events to go!!!

The first Quest Lough Derg was a roaring success, this will be a highlight of the 2020 calendar.

Quest Killarney – 12/10/19

Quest Killarney…the jewel in the crown of adventure racing.

There’s really no better day out than Quest Killarney in October. Whether you are doing the championship 83km course or the challenge course you are in for a treat and get to experience the magnificence of the National Park or Torc Waterfall or the Black Valley…and the expert course participants get to have their souls destroyed on Mangerton mountain! With 2,000 participants, 5 routes and 11 wave starts it’s an action packed day and an exercise in logistical excellence!

In the men’s sport Philip Smith continued the winning ways a good day on the bike for Bernard Smyth saw him take 2nd place…Anthony McGibney just missed out again on a podium spot (Niall Smith was 3rd) and a fine result for John ‘The Bikefit Physio’ Phelan in 4th, he likes this course!

In the women’s sport Lisa Clerkin was becoming unstoppable as she took another 1st place but Niamh Cleary and Niamh Garvey continued to keep the pressure on her.

If this was F1, Killarney would be considered the Monaco of the series, it’s the one they all want to win!

In the women’s expert it was Ellen Vittings turn to lead Laura O’Driscoll home (or maybe it was the curse of the form guide!!!) and Aine Mahony again picked up 3rd spot.

In the men’s expert race Killian Heery broke early and after some deliberation Shane Scully followed and we had a 2 horse race.

Trading blows up and down Mangerton, Shane finally got the upper-hand in the final few kms of the descent through the woods and wrapped up the Continental National Expert series with his 5th straight win with Killian crossing the line behind him. Another solid performance from Barry Cronin saw him take his fourth 3th place finish and move in to the overall top 3.

There’s no event like it, Quest Killarney is almost as good as Christmas Day!!

SCAR – Skibbereen Charity Adventure Race – 19/10/19

A trip to west cork the week after Killarney meant there was no rest for the Continental National Adventure Race series contenders but with vital points on the line we were sure of a great days racing in store and a beautiful crisp morning at Castlehaven GAA pitch set the scene up nicely for SCAR ‘19 and conditions for racing were perfect!

In the women’s sport the hard work was paying off for Niamh Cleary and she got her first win of the year and sealed her spot in the top 3. Sian Egerton was only seconds behind and Orla Hayes took third.

Philip Smith clinched the national title and a marvelous year of racing with another win, John Phelan went 1 better than Killarney and finished in third with local Steven Darby second.

Although the national title in the men’s expert had already been decided there was still all to play for to make up the final top 3. Barry Cronin’s consistency all year ensured he was going to feature but needed points to hold second spot. A solid first run and bike left him in a good spot and he opened up a gap to the chasers on the second run and wasn’t to be caught. Sebastien Giraud who was the leading candidate for the overall third spot still needed 1 big result to ensure he took that  third spot but a mechanical issue in the early stages of the first bike section meant early retirement and another few weeks to wait to try and seal his spot. John Magner took second place, his best finish of the year and on rebel home turf and a very deserving 3rd place went to Darren Quinn who spent most of the race in no mans land between 2nd and 4th.

In the women’s expert race Ellen Vitting chalked up her 4th win of the year and this put her to the top of the overall series with just 1 race to go! Jenny Miller and Fiona Meade featured for the first time this year to take the 2nd and 3rd places. A key feature of the race is the longer then normal kayak leg at close to 2k, this we think is a really great feature, you have to work that bit harder and it really makes it a 3 discipline race!

So with just 1 race to go there was still plenty to play for, SCAR results set up for an intriguing finish to the season!!

Sea 2 Summit – 09/11/19

It was off to Westport for the final race of the 2019 Continental National Adventure Race Series where cold and wintry conditions were the order of the day as 2,700 participants took part in the biggest race of the year at the sold out Westport Sea2Summit. While both the mens expert and sport series titles were decided, both the womens expert and sport titles were still to be claimed.

One last roll of the dice, where 2700 strong participants finished out the season in style

In the Expert/Supreme race Ellen Vitting had the upper hand coming in to this event with Laura O’Driscoll needing to win to retain her National Champion crown and after an epic battle on Croagh Patrick on foot and Maum on the bike Laura found the legs to race home in first place and claim the race victory as
well as the 2019 series title. It was never easy and Ellen pushed her all the way, both in this race and throughout the year. Leesa Murphy ensured some silverware stayed local with a fine days’ work in 3rd.

In the womens Sport/Spirit race Lisa Clerkin ensured she took the overall title with a remarkable win. Aileen McNamara had the measure of her back in Kiltimagh at Race2Glory as it looked very much like a repeat of that result but a brilliant final run saw Lisa overturn an almost 2 minute gap and sprinted
home with only a few seconds to spare to claim a sweet victory. Super performance from Aileen in 2nd and Eimear Kelly finished off a great race in 3rd.

The mens Sport race was being billed as the race of the year and it didn’t disappoint. It took a new course record and a phenomenal 13:50 final run to win it for Brendan Conway from Paul Feeney who had the slight upperhand arriving at the final transition but not enough of a gap to hold off Conway. Dwyane Flynn took his second podium of the series in 3rd place and Philip Smith was on his heels in 4th.

The mens expert race was also won on the last run….Killian Heery and Anthony Murray traded blows all day but a strong final run from Killian was good enough to take the win. Sebastien Giraud rounded off a fine year with 3rd place which ensured that he took 3rd place in the overall series. Performance of the day in the Supreme was Darren Quinn finishing 4th, one of the 6 people who completed every race in the 2019 series!

And so this event brought a close to the 2019 Continental National Adventure Race Series and the legendary after party was as usual…. legendary!!!!

About the Author:

Kerry native Padraig has been living in Dublin/Meath for past 20 years. Hanging up the GAA boots about 8 years ago, he has completed an unknown amount of races including 15 marathons across Ireland, UK and the US with a PB of 3hr 39min. Discovering Adventure Racing a few years ago was a game changer for Padraig and as a veteran of 20+ adventure races, he is always looking for a new challenge, the tougher the better! At home on both a road or mountain bike, he can be found most weekends running up or down a mountain somewhere! Big plans for the year ahead already having taking part in the most extreme adventure race in Ireland ‘The Race’ and with the inaugural Quest 24 event in his native Kerry in the pipeline.

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