ADAC Day 4: Sun and sand take a toll
At 7 o´clock this morning the 36 teams set out in a thick veil of fog from Moreeb Dune with the prospect of a 36-hour struggle with the sands on this massive 107km desert trekking stage.
The 36 teams, equipped with gaiters, loose-fitting trousers, wide brimmed hats and faces smeared with sun-block, set off on a 107km trek through the Liwa Desert, one of the most daunting stages of this 6-day competition. After a night spent in the bivouac at Moreeb Dune, the athletes awoke to a thick fog masking from view the towering dunes of the Rub al Kahli.
With having to rely on the Gps to help them though the dense mist, some teams were reduced to picking their around dunes until, at around 10:00, the sun broke through and the mercury began to rise. The fastest teams alternated between running and trekking. So advantageous were the flat stretches that the teams would alter their “optimal” trajectory to hit as many of these relatively smooth areas as possible in an effort to gain a maximum of time no their adversaries.
5 hours 38 minutes into the stage, the sun had already pummelled the teams into a panting and perspiring mass strung out across the dunes in several tight clusters. As they crossed the salt flat leading to CP 4, another welcome opportunity to grab some bottles of water and stave off the possibility of a crippling dehydration, an epic struggle was already taking place between the leading teams.
First to check in, by the slimmest of margins, was Team NZ (NZ), literally comingled with the fastest French, Sport 2000 Vibram Outdry, and Kiwi archrivals Desert Islands (NZ). All three picked up some water before collapsing into the first fragment of shade available to discuss tactics and recuperate for the arduous task ahead. Nike (USA), pushing hard to make up the time separating them from a step on the podium, came in 2 minutes behind the section pace setters and a stream of teams, already displaying signs of creeping exhaustion, followed them in at regular intervals over the next 16 minutes. Surprisingly enough, Adco Aroc (AUS) after looking poised to take the race by storm with their excellent result on yesterday’s sea-kayaking stage putting them into 3rd overall, came in over an hour off the front of the race looking somewhat dejected.
20 kilometres further on, at CP 5 (63km), Team NZ (NZ) were still pulling the train, taking 9h11 to cover the distance (with 3h39 of rest time). Desert Islands (NZ) followed with a three-minute gap (3h45 rest) along with Nike (USA - 3h37 rest), and Sport 2000 Vibram Outdry 8 minutes behind (9h19 and 3h30 rest). Salomon Santiveri (ESP), having laid low for most of the race up until now, showed their true talents overland putting in the 5th fastest time to this part of the course in 9h26 (3h14) ahead of Wilsa HH (FRA - 9h30 racing and 3h18 rest).
With the prospect of another moonlit night in store, the athletes switched on their headlamps at around 18:00 and raced through the dark. Early tomorrow morning at Hassab, we shall see the outcome of their efforts.
Section E – Times at CP 5 - 63km:
1 TEAM NZ - 09:11:00
2 DESERT ISLANDS - 09:14:00
3 NIKE - 09:14:00
4 SPORT 2000 VIBRAM OUTDRY - 09:19:00
5 SALOMON SANTIVERI - 09:26:00
The opening day of the 2008 Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge embraced extremes of more than one nature: First came the effort required by the athletes to compete this morning’s inaugural triathlon.
For the second day of the race, based on the picturesque Sir Bani Yas Island, the teams started with an opening 45.5 km MTB section followed by a 27km kayaking leg culminating at Umm al Kurkum Island.
As the race hits its mid point, early front runners Desert Islands (NZ) see their race lead reduced with the power paddlers vying for supremacy over the second 82 km sea-kayaking section.