Icy brush with death fails to deter adventure racer

Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:25pm EST
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By Will Gray

PUERTO MONTT, Chile (Reuters) - A narrow escape from death in a freezing river has not deterred Frenchman Bruno Rey from setting out this week to defend his title in the Patagonian Expedition Race, one of the world's toughest sporting contests.

"We have planned another strategy for river crossings this year," said Rey, who fell into glacier-fed water in the middle of the night during last year's race. "That's what we call 'experience', don't we?

"It was close last year. The water was big and I was thrown into a very strong current, getting myself stuck on a tree in the middle of the river with the current taking me slowly down under.

"I was thinking of one of the most experienced French adventure racers, Dominique Robert, who died in the exact same conditions. Water was pushing me down but my team mate got me out just in time. He saved my life, for sure."

Back with Team Easy Implant, Rey, a 46-year-old dentist, is one of 40 athletes who set out Tuesday to battle the elements in a 600-km endurance race to, as organizers put it, "the end of the world."

Last year, just four of the 15 four-person teams reached the finish due to the extreme challenges of wild weather and strength-sapping terrain.

This year's is the seventh Patagonian race and competitors, with no outside assistance, are trekking, climbing, mountain biking and kayaking through Chile's southernmost region.

The event began in the spectacular Torres del Paine national park and will end at Cape Froward, the southernmost point of mainland South America, on February 19.   Continued...

<p>Competitors pose for a group photo at the start of the sixth edition of the Patagonian Expedition Race in Punta Arenas, February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Will Gray</p>