Red Bull Divide & Conquer – TEAM SPEED ANGELS

On June 16 2012 Team SPEED ANGELS was the only women’s team in the Red Bull Divide & Conquer. Below is an amazing account of the grueling event by Toni Stanojevic!

Photography credit: Steve Arns

North Vancouver is an amazing playground of trails and rivers and Red Bull decided to host a new event here this summer. The inaugural Red Bull Divide and Conquer race took place on June 16, 2012. The race concept involved three team members (no solo entries permitted, maybe next year) each covering a leg of the event separately in relay format: a trail run, then a mountain bike, followed by a whitewater kayak section.

I like to play outside. I like to run, mountain bike, paddle, surf, and snowboard, and although I don’t do any of these sports particularly well, I do enjoy racing. I enjoy racing for the camaraderie and the cheering for each other, the motivation to try new trail networks and new distances, and let’s be honest here, the feed stations and post race food. Having an injured knee this spring was really putting a damper on my fun, so when I read about this race online, I decided to find myself some team mates. I nominated myself the whitewater kayaker due to my knee injury. I really wanted to put together a strong team of local women so I started looking for a fast runner and mountain biker.

I tracked down my friend Louise Oram who is an amazing athlete. She has been on the Canadian orienteering team for years competing at the international level and last year when she put down the map and decided to enter a trail run, she won the women’s division of the 2011 Knee Knacker, a grueling 50km trail run across North Vancouver’s mountains from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. Louise was available to race the Red Bull weekend. To find a mountain biker, I put out the word to my local mountain bike club, the Muddbunnies. Muddbunnies is a women’s mountain biking community filled with enthusiastic riders from beginner to racer. Through the Muddbunnies network, I was put in touch with Lindsay Trimble, an elite competitor for Bryson Racing Clan and Rocky Mountain bikes. In between her busy race season of the DH circuit as well as an Enduro series in Oregon, she had the Red Bull weekend free and was keen to race. I was thrilled. We had a team that could make a race for the ladies’ title.

Race day was cool and steadily raining. Welcome to Vancouver, everybody. I ran into kayakers in the starting area that I knew who traveled as far away as from Ottawa, Ontario and Asheville, North Carolina. The North Face also flew a team in from somewhere in the Southern US. Competition was fierce, with a lot of sponsored teams in attendance. To our great disappointment, we turned out to be the only women’s team entered in the race. In fact, there were only a couple of other women trail runners, one other female kayaker, and Lindsay was the only female mountain biker in the race. Where were all the other women out there who rip? We wanted to have a race! We had to make do with giving the guys a run for their money instead…

Louise started off the day for us with a run that started at Cleveland Dam and covered over 12km on Grouse mountain, along technical trails such as the Baden Powell, Dreamweaver, and Jet boy, climbing almost 6000 feet of elevation which is a near double ascent of Grouse mountain. The week of the race we had been unsure that Louise would be able to run. She had badly sprained her ankle only a few weeks before and had recently been on crutches. Lucky for us, she decided to tough it out with a brace on. She kept up with the boys, passing some on the final sections of the ascent, and had us positioned right in the middle of the pack.

Louise handed off the timing chip to Lindsay at the summit of Grouse mountain in the fog and snow. It was the first time Grouse had uploaded bikes in the gondola since the world cup race according to Lindsay. She rode down the Mountain Highway fire road for 5km and then dropped down into Peer Gynt, Executioner, Dreamweaver to St. Mary’s and across the Baden Powell, back up Mountain Highway all the way to the top, dropping down for a second descent into Seventh Secret, Crinkum Crankum, and Pipeline, before heading back in the other direction along the Baden Powell and the Powerline trail at the base of Grouse mountain over to the fish hatchery on the Capilano River. Lindsay ripped through 33 km of Fromme on her 29er Rocky Mountain Element in 35mm of rain. She was muddy but still smiling by the handover at the river. She said she got passed by a couple of guys, but she must have passed a few more, because she moved up our position to 16th.

The kayaking section started with a launch off the Red Bull ramp at the Fish Hatchery weir. This photo is Katrina Van Wijk, the only other female kayaker in the race, who blew away all the guys and posted the second fastest paddling time of the day.

The Capilano river is class III (intermediate) whitewater flowing through a deep rock canyon underneath the famous suspension bridge before popping out into the ocean near the Lion’s Gate Bridge. The 10km kayaking section ended with an ocean paddle over to Ambleside Park, and a beach run through the finish line with the kayak. Here I am heading into the canyon, cold from cheering on my teammates in the rain all day, but feeling the pressure to paddle fast.

The teams were so spread out by this point that I didn’t see a single other person while on the river. I finished in the same position that I started in, and we placed 16th overall among the men. We ended the day wet and muddy but happy. There was no water at the finish line but all the Red Bull you could carry, and a taco truck and grilled cheese stand (note the importance of delicious post race food). So we took the women’s title of the first Red Bull Divide and Conquer. We didn’t get our chance on the podium, but we each got an annual Grouse pass as prizing. Hope to see you all out next year to give us a run for our money and have some women up on that podium… Happy playing and racing!

Full results here

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