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Shane Sigle, Adventure Racer - Part I
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 12/31/2002
Shane Sigle, Adventure Racer - Part I
Shane Sigel interview adventure racing

An interview with Shane Sigle a member of the adventure racing team Team Montrail.  We explore what cycling has to do with adventure racing , the effects of exhaustion, nutrition, and the challenge of  team work and survival.  As Lance Armstrong stated, "It's not about the bike."

Part I

Ok, so we are here with Shane Sigle, a member of the Team Montrail adventure racing team. First a little background on the team, and then we get to grill Shane on what it is and what it has to do with cycling.

Over the last three years, Team Montrail has steadily climbed the ranks in adventure racing. Three years ago, the team had it's first top ten finish in a major race. Two years ago, the team placed third in the World Championships and had a few other top five finishes. In 2002, Team Montrail placed second in the Primal Quest and first in the Raid the North Extreme. The team also traveled in the top four for most of the first six days of Eco-Challenge until an injury caused the team to quit.

Team Montrail is one of two American teams to consistently place in the top five in major races. Ironically, in most big races, the majority of teams are from the U.S. For example, in the Eco-Challenge, 42 of the 81 teams were from the U.S. Canada is one of the areas where the sport is growing quickly with a 275 % increase in participants in the last year. So much so, that on April 19, 2003, Toronto will host it's first ever adventure racing expo put on by Quest adventure group.

Photo by Rahoul Ghose, 2001 World
Championship Adventure Race.

DP: Hello Shane, lets cut to the chase. Adventure racing is new to me. Could you fill me in what it is and how does cycling fit in?

 Shane:  Hello! Ok, adventure racing is a sport that combines multiple disciplines such as trail running, mountain biking, whitewater paddling, ocean paddling, rock climbing and rappelling, in-line skating, river boarding, and horseback riding to name a few.  It is usually a non-stop race from point A to point B with discipline switches along the way.  One of the key disciplines in adventure racing is mountain biking.  Since adventure racing is usually staged in remote, dangerous, and challenging areas, road bicycles or cross-bikes are rarely optimal for the rough terrain we cross.

In the average 4-day adventure race, competitors will mountain bike 100-200 miles of single track, forest road, fire road, and maybe some pavement.

DP:  Are the races point to point total time like RAAM or the Race around Australia that Perry Stone is doing? Or is it timed stages like the Tour de France where you at least get some time to rest and recover overnight?
Shane: Adventure races can be both point to point and staged.  They can vary in length from 3-4 hours to 3-4 weeks and everything in between.  The average expedition adventure race spans 6-10 days and is not staged.

DP:   Is there an individual winner like the Tour de France, or is it only a team victory?

Shane: One of the key components of adventure racing is the fact that it is a team sport. All team members must finish the race together and may be no farther than 100 meters from each other at any time.  Most races require teams of four and there must be one member of the opposite sex.  Most teams quit adventure races not because they are hurt physically but instead, they have run into internal team problems that have broken the spirit of the team and they quit mentally. Usually, the team that has the best team dynamics to complement incredible physical endurance wins the race.

DP:   A hundred meters, now that is a tough rule! So it is multi-disciplined.  Is each race the same disciplines, or do they vary from race to race?

Shane:  The disciplines vary from each race and there are no standard disciplines except biking, trail running/hiking, and some type of paddling. The list of other disciplines that have been used in adventure racing is very long. For example, in the Eco-Challenge in Fiji this year, competitors were required to build a raft out of thirteen 40 foot pieces of bamboo and paddle the boat down 30km of river.
One of the main premises of adventure racing is that all competitors must be ready for anything and be able to work through any tough situation.

DP:  So there short races and long races like in some cycling stage races. How much of an advantage is it if you are an experienced cyclist? Does it give you an advantage above other disciplines?

Shane: Cycling is a key component of adventure racing and many of the top racers have a mountain biking background. As stated earlier, there are races ranging in length from 3-4 hours to 3-4 weeks. The shorter races tend to be won by triathletes and pro mountain bikers while the long races tend to be won by lifelong adventurers and outdoors people. It is also important to state that many mountain bikers have an easy transition to adventure racing because they are usually great runners too.

DP:  How old is adventure racing?

Shane:  Adventure racing is about fifteen years old. The first and still premier race is the Raid Gauloises which is organized by a French company.  The Raid is always approximately 1000km and spans 7-13 days.

DP:  How did you get started and get a berth in a team?

Shane:  I began adventure racing when I was asked to join a team that was entering a race in India that was mainly composed of whitewater rafting and rope skills. Our team immediately bonded and we have been racing together since that time. Finding a core group of people with the same goals and aspirations is probably the most difficult part of racing.

DP: What is the hardest part of a 5 day challenge?  Keeping the team together?  Dealing with the elements?  Exhaustion?

Shane:  The hardest part of a five day race is certainly the internal battles.  The human body screams to stop and to quit the madness although it can always go on.  The mind wanders and becomes perturbed while it knows the finish line can be accomplished.  The heart waivers between despair and feelings of omnipotence. Keeping it all together and giving shamelessly are what makes a great racer. 

DP: Speaking of exhaustion what are the biggest challenge over the course of an event dealing with the effects of exhaustion? Could you tell me about the mental effects of a three to five day race? 

Shane:  Each race brings new problems that are associated with the exhaustion. Exhaustion causes failure of most every system that keeps the body running. Exhaustion causes your appetite to disappear and your stomach to ache. It causes your mind to wander and your thoughts to be clouded. It causes your will to continue to weaken, to carry on to the finish, your mood to sour, pain  is a constant companion. Exhaustion brings every human to their edge, whatever that may be.

The mental effects of a three to five day race can be incredible and devastating at the same time. I return from a race not being able to assimilate into society. I feel like I have accomplished something so personally amazing and different from the everyday life of the American family that I don't know what to say to people. It is impossible to put into words.

A three to five day race requires a minimum of one week rest and recovery where a racer will literally do nothing but eat and sleep. I personally know racers that have spent up to five weeks recovering from a race.

Look for more in the second part of this interview!

Related links:
Moots Bicycles
The Holy Grail of Bike Fit
Team Montrail
Rebecca Rusch
Quest adventure group:


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