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Beautifully brutal - Red Bull Divide & Conquer 2014

Words: Ico Schutte | Photos: © Red Bull Media House

In the third rendition of the Red Bull Divide & Conquer event, a multi-discipline endurance race, competitors have the option of braving it as a solo race. "A bit terrifying," said adventure athlete Will Gadd. And terrifying it was!

Photo credit: © Mason Mashon / Red Bull Content Pool

Held on 8 June 2014, the race consists of a 12 km mountain run, whereby runners ascend more than 2,000 m of Grouse Mountain as they make their way up twice. It is then followed by a 25 km mountain bike ride on the legendary North Shore trails of Vancouver. For the final stretch, athletes paddle their way down the canyons of the Capilano River.

We started at the Cleveland dam, a scenic area in the midst of town. The run took us up gorgeous trails that meandered through the beautiful forest on Grouse Mountain. Although I suspect that not many athletes savoured the views, as the run was physically violent and difficult. The last two kilometres went straight up a steep trail and just when you thought you'd reached the top, it just kept on going. After two hours of battle with the mountain it was time for a new weapon, exchanging running shoes for my Cannondale mountain bike.

The mountain bike leg started off with an easy 5 km descent down forest roads before entering the first trail, aptly named 'The Executioner'. The trails were of extreme difficulty and all marked black diamond. Going down and going up was equally tough, as the trail is littered with rocks and roots. By this time the magnitude of the run was wearing on my legs and I struggled to make progress on the hard climbs. I lost focus for half a second on the downhill and ended diving over the handle bars on a steep drop, which resulted in some minor cuts and bruises. Exhausted, I got back on the horse to finish the bike leg with a brutal hike-a-bike section, to arrive at the second transition after five hours of total racing.

Photo credit: © Dan Carr / Red Bull Content Pool

The kayak leg gets the adrenalin pumping with a massive three-metre seal launch into the glacial waters below. This year, unfortunately, the water level was very low, making the paddle easier on a technical level but much harder physically, as there were long stretches of flat water to power through and many rocks to scrape over. The Capilano River makes its way down pristine canyons and through coastal rainforest, to the finish line at the beautiful Ambleside Park.

To add a final touch of brutalness, we had to paddle out into the ocean and around two buoys before heading back to shore for the finish. Exhausted but satisfied I crossed the finish line after just over six hours of racing. In true Red Bull fashion, only two competitors out of the seven that started in the Solo category finished.

When the dust had settled, the top three podium places for the Team category went to The Full Dudemen, Rocky Mountain Bikes and Two Colin's and a Nick, respectively. The Solo category was won by Paul Romero, followed by myself in second place.

More information
For more information about the race and full race results, visit www.redbull.com