The eighth edition of the annual Red Bull Ragnarok championship that many consider the world’s toughest snow-kite course, drew 250 competitors to the frozen wilderness of Norway's Hardangervidda plateau.
For the third year in a row, Canadian Marie-Eve Mayrand ascended the podium at the Ragnarok 2018, claiming silver in the women’s snowboard category. She won gold in 2016 and bronze last year.
Learn first hand from Marie-Eve what the race entails from a rider's perspective:
RACE SUMMARY //
The forecast called for stronger wind in the morning that would die out during the day. I was not sure about the appropriate kite size especially with the almost complete absence of wind at the rigging area. I took a long time to decide till the red flag went up, signaling that the race would start in 15 minutes.
Settling on my Ozone 13M R1V2, I hurried to the start line to find I was stuck at the back of the crowd. Five minutes before the start, the wind began to pick up and some competitors were contemplating switching to their 9M kites. I wondered if I had made the right selection. But there was no time to switch.
In retrospect, my 13M R1V2 was the right kite for the start. Fast, light, stable and easy to relaunch in light wind. It’s so much fun riding that kite!
Scrimmage at gate one
The path to gate one was hard. Kites were aggressively pushing to get through the tiny gate. Others were in tangles, complicating matters more.
I didn’t want to risk getting my kite tangled with another contestant’s – as I knew how much time this would cost. So, I decided to relax while getting through gate one, and then to pick up speed. I was in tenth place through gate one.
After gate 2, I put on speed to advance to fifth position.
Into the windless valley
Between gates 3 and 4, I entered the valley, where the lack of wind made it difficult to keep my kite in the air.
It was hard, painful and slow. It took a lot of time, looping my kite to go up the mountain, and avoiding other struggling people.
Once I was up the mountain, I went through gates 3 and 4 and completed my second and third lap without incident.
At this point, I was enjoying the course, as I moved into second place. But despite maintaining the same speed, I could not catch up to Valeria Garaschenko (the eventual gold medalist). I had lost too much time at the start of the race and in the windless valley.
Lap 4: The clock and exhaustion
The fourth lap went well till gate 2, where the light wind again made climbing the mountain a challenge.
I was able to keep my kite in the air but I had tried to climb the steepest part of the mountain with almost no wind. I went back down and tried again on a less challenging part of the mountain. Even when I had climbed to the top, I saw everyone struggling. I had to walk through gate 2 to cross it.
While attempting to go through gate 3 in the valley, I didn’t see many kites up in the air. With only 30 minutes remaining in the race, and absolutely no wind, I started walking in deep snow toward gate 3. And then my legs just gave away. I was so worn out and I just knew I couldn’t make it. I waited, with zero energy for the snowmobile to come scoop me up and take me back to the Red Bull tent.
I’m lucky to live an hour from the Canadian Rocky Mountains where we had heavy snowfall this year which allowed me to train in challenging terrain. It was also a real honour to train and spend the week in Norway with my very talented Ozone teammates: Jonas Lengwiler, Marco Fey, Ronny Michael, Mace Smait, and Didier Botta. It was also wonderful to be at the event with Iain, Hannes and Stu from the Ozone corporate office.
Congratulations to my Canadian teammate Peter Martel who earned gold in the men’s snowboard category, and Jonas from Switzerland who came third in the men’s ski category and was one of three men to complete all five laps.
“I have to thank the people who support me in this adventure: Ozone kites, Muller Windsports, Mystic Boarding, Lifesport YYC and my family and friends,” she says.
Congratulations to Valeria and Aija Ambrasa (who placed third in the women’s snowboard category).
Ladies in the snowboard category are getting faster each year. I'm very happy to see that the ladies are closing the gap with their male counterparts. I hope even more ladies will get into the sport.
I myself ranked ninth among all 120 male and female snowboarders.
PLANS FOR 2019 //
I would like the opportunity to race with top women competitors in other events outside the Ragnarok.
I hope to return in 2019. But I have some contrasting goals: either I should accept Steph Bridge’s challenge to compete on skis, or be faster on my snowboard and have good start.
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