It's the location for a famous British cavalry charge that was annihilated in the so-called 'valley of death'. But last weekend the Crimean region of Balaklava was host to a very different and modern kind of battle — Red Bull Mission 825, an adventure race featuring kayaking, swimming and mountain running.
The unique triathlon saw 29 athletes, including five women, battle it out for the chance to be crowned champion.
After a mass start with kayaking off Marble Beach, participants crossed the bay and headed straight for the tunnel entrance to an underground submarine base known as GTS-825, once a secret facility and today a unique naval museum complex.
Having navigated a narrow 600m channel inside the tunnel, the participants left their kayaks and continued to run along the inner corridors of the underground base straight to the next test — swimming across Balaklava Bay.
Immediately after swimming 450 metres in cold sea-water, the competitors went on to the final and decisive leg of the triathlon — a steep and winding mountain run towards the top of the tower at the legendary Cembalo Fortress! For over 500 years, it has been the scene of furious battles between invading armies. It was also the final target of Mission 825's competitors.
It was also in the historic building that the strongest competitor was crowned, Anatoly Nesterov, reigning world champion in quadrathlon. The 36-year-old athlete covered the distance in an incredible 22 minutes, crossing the line well ahead of the rest of the field.
“From the very start I went for maximum speed and was able to move into the lead,” he said. “It was really unusual to have a stage inside a tunnel, as it’s a pretty unique place for kayaking. It was a truly unique location. I’d like to go through this kind of extreme competition again!”
The best finisher among the women was Elena Jankovskaya from Zaporozhye.
“It was hard to compete against these strong participants, but I believed in my victory,” she said. “I have been practising kayaking a lot recently, so I was able to push on during the first stage. The support from the crowd really helped as well as the encouragement from the male participants who I passed. This is a really hard and unusual competition for the Ukraine, so I'm glad I was the highest-placed female competitor.”
Jankovskaya and Nesterov weren't the only champions. Every athlete who made it to the finish line emerged a victor.