I just finished watching the ESPN/ABC coverage of Primal Quest, and overall, I thought it was very good. The five episodes managed to capture the drama and intensity of the sport while still making it approachable for someone who didn’t know anything about adventure racing. The explained the concepts of the sport, introduced some of the greatest athletes competing today, and followed a number of top teams. The scenery was spectacular, especially in HD, and the camera crews should be commended for catching some awesome footage of both the race and the landscapes near Moab itself. The addition of Isaak Wilson as a “color commentator” was also a nice choice, as he offered insight into the race, and explained things like dark zones in an easy to understand manor.
It wasn’t all great though. I thought at times they were a little simplistic on explaining some things, or glossed over some stuff too quickly. Of course, it’s not easy to condense an event like Primal Quest down to a few episodes anyway, so some corners needed to be cut. The fifth and final episode that aired on ABC today was also almost completely unnecessary. It ended up being a hodge podge of the first four episodes from ESPN2, except for the last five minutes or so when they crowned Nike the champion, and showed the second and third place finishers. I was excited to see the final episode, only to spend most of it waiting to for the end of the race. There was some new footage in the re-cap show today, but most was just a re-hash. Finally, if I have to hear James Denton tell me one more time that “these guys are for real” and that “they’re not playing games”, I think I’m going to cry. Next year, hire a better script writer and don’t beat us over the head with the fact that adventure racing is an “extreme” sport. We get it already.
So where does Primal Quest go from here? Following the tragedy that occured during the race in 2004, PQ took a year off to reorganize and refocus. I’d say it roared back as a huge success in 2006, bigger and better than ever. The future looks great for the “Toughest Race on Earth”. But, I’d like to see it branch out more. Go International. Maybe race in Borneo like that classic Eco Challenge. How about an epic race in the wilds of Patagonia? Has a major race ever been held in the Hawaiian Islands? Traditionally it’s been held in the Western United States, but maybe it’s time to take iton the road. Also, cut the horses from the race. I’m not a big fan of using horses in AR to begin with, as they can be temperamental, and the racing conditions can be tough on them. Plus, there is no fair way to ensure that they don’t hamper a team, as is evident with GoLite in this year’s race. Other than that, keep doing what you’re doing. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. Oh, and one last thing. Be sure to bring ESPN back, because despite the few gripes I had above, they really covered the event well, and gave adventure racing a legitimacy and exposure that it hasn’t seen before.