The anticipation surrounding London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games inspired us to seek out other exhilarating sporting events around the world. Here is where to catch some of the world’s most exciting races – from crab racing in Tobago to jungle rafting down the Amazon.
The Tour de France finish in Paris
Nothing in the cycling world beats the grand finale of its greatest
race, the Tour de France. After
riding 3,500km across the length and breadth of France, riders put the
pedal to the metal down Paris’ most prestigious street, the Champs-Élysées. The
overall winner of the race is usually decided well before the riders
reach Paris (often on the notoriously steep Alpe d’Huez stage), but in the
last stretch there are still points available for sprinters, so a fast
finish is guaranteed. With ample opportunity to see your favourite
cyclists up close, the atmosphere – bustling cafes, jostling fans and
frantic French commentary – is unforgettable.
Camel racing in Dubai
This age-old sport is enjoying a
renaissance in the Emirates, thanks to the futuristic intervention
of robots. The juxtaposition of camels stampeding across sand in
front of a modern urban skyline used to be bizarre enough. But now, the
camels are ridden by tailor-made robotic jockeys, instead of young children
(an aspect of the sport that had been swamped in controversy). Owners control
their jockeys remotely and fans say that camel racing has never been so
exciting, since the machines weigh far less than human jockeys.
and crab racing festival
Goat racing started in Tobago in 1925, after wealthy colonialists began
racing thoroughbred horses in neighbouring Trinidad. Today, Easter
Tuesday’s goat race
at Buccoo, a fishing village in Tobago’s secluded southwest, has
achieved cult status. The comical race, in which competitors run behind their
bleating steeds, is the focal point of several brilliant events, including
a goat parade with commentary and a major sideshow in the equally
competitive sport of crab racing.
Going coast to coast in New Zealand
cycling and kayaking, this gruelling,
243km event is touted as the planet’s toughest adventure race. It
reaches from the east to west coasts of New Zealand’s South Island
and crosses the Southern Alpine mountains in the process. For spectators,
the race offers stunning scenery, with the 66km kayak down the wild Waimarkariri
River regarded as the race highlight – especially where the water funnels into
an imposing gorge with ice-capped peaks looming above. The route is
riddled with oddly familiar scenery: many of the iconic shots in
Peter Jackson’s Lord
of the Rings trilogy were filmed here.
Snail racing in England
“Ready, steady, slow” goes
the catchphrase at the leading competitive snail-racing venue, a cricket pitch in
the sedate Norfolk village of Congham, England. It does not provide
many adrenaline highs (unless you are a participating gastropod), but
compensates for that in sheer strangeness, as crowds gather to
glimpse the snails race from the centre of a table to its periphery
under the watchful eye of the “snailmaster”. Why Congham? It has lots of ponds around,
apparently, and snails like ponds.
Peru’s Amazon raft race
Ever wondered how to get to a city of 500,000 people, when there are no
access roads? During this annual jungle raft
race to Iquitos, hundreds of crews in weird and wonderful vessels take
to the world’s greatest river, the Amazon. A cornucopia of colourful craft
-- built from scratch by competing teams -- battle caimans, piranhas,
currents and each other in order to complete the 180km course.
Balloon racing in Nevada
Every September, the skies above Reno, Nevada become a blaze of
inflated glory during the Great Reno
Balloon Race. With three days of races, displays and
challenges, this technicolour event – the largest free ballooning festival
in the US – wows some 140,000 spectators, as pilots compete for a $20,000
first prize. But the high-altitude fun does not end with a simple race;
also on offer is “Balloon Blackjack” and Reno’s famous “Hare and
Hounds” event -- an airborne simulation of a traditional
British hunt, during which 100 balloons chase down two hot-air “hares”.
Mongol Derby in Mongolia
If you really want
to feel like a modern day Marco Polo, experiencing this 1,000km
unsignposted romp through the Mongolian steppe is the way to do it.
Far and away the world’s most arduous horse race, the derby sees
entrants saddling up in much the same manner as the famed explorer
did eight centuries ago, carrying all their gear and refuelling at homes of local
families en route. It will just be you, your steed, your GPS (in case you
get lost, which is incredibly easy) and kilometre after kilometre of
remote, rolling plains.
Dakar Rally in Chile and
Despite having switched from the original France-Senegal route to South American Patagonia,
this legendary race is most definitely
still on the radar of serious offroad race enthusiasts, with trucks,
bikes, quad bikes and cars converging to careen across thousands of
kilometres of rugged terrain. Over the course 13 days, adventure hot spot
Patagonia throws the Andes and swaths of the driest desert on earth into
the path of participants, alongside an enviable palette of colour, from
the lush greens of the Pampas to the fiery reds of the Atacama at
Taking its superfit
participants from 85m below sea level to 2,530m above in a
mere 217km, the Badwater course is
every bit as “bad” as its name suggests. The world’s toughest
road-running race gives entrants just 48 hours to make it from the
depths of Death Valley, the lowest point in the western hemisphere,
up to the slopes of Mount Whitney, one of the highest points in the United
States. It is an arresting part of the planet; salt flats, dunes,
canyons and monumental mountain ranges are all part of the package.
The article 'The greatest races to watch live' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.