Since early yesterday morning, the teams have been struggling against the relentless heat and endless dunes of the Rub Al Khali. The leading teams completed the 120km at around 9h30 this morning – they were followed by a long string of teams throughout the afternoon.
Having contended with soaring temperatures (34°C) and an almost non existent breeze throughout the first day of the desert orienteering stage, the teams finally found some respite at nightfall when the mercury dropped to around 20°C. The small group of frontrunners comprising QASR AL SARAB (NZL), VIBRAM SPORT 2000 (FRA), ADCO (NZL), ADSC-WILSA (FRA) and DOMA (GER) spent the first part of the obligatory 8-hour rest period at the 52km point.
After resting for about 2h30, the whole group decided to move to CP5 where they stopped to rest until moonrise at about 00:30. The group had decided to race together through the night, each team taking its turn as pathfinder for the pack as they wound across. “We spent the whole night together – it really helped us to keep going,” stated and Karine BAILLET, captain of ADSC/WILSA (FRA).
The disadvantage is that no one can hope to shake off the competition during the run in the dunes. “Running on soft surfaces is always the same – you leave a trace and anyone can follow you. At night you simply have to follow the lights...” explained Nathan FA’AVAE of QASR AL SARAB (NZ). Sometimes the physical effort required for the break away is just too much: “Dwarne was suffering from cramp and had to be pulled a lot of the way,” Jacky BOISSET, captain of VIBRAM SPORT 2000 (FRA) confessed. “We had to readjust our objectives as a consequence – instead of trying to catch up with second place ADCO (NZ) we had to make sure they didn’t get away from us ...”
At 9h32 this morning, with the sun already blazing down, a cluster of 8 teams finished what, at times, must have seemed an interminable stage. SALOMON CRESTED BUTTE (USA), finally showing their true mettle, put in the fastest time but no one team had managed to break the others. Overall, QASR AL SARAB (NZ) and ADCO (NZL) are still in first and second place respectively in the provisional ranking, just ahead of VIBRAM SPORT 2000 (FRA).
Tomorrow morning the teams will undertake two MTB sections along a hard, sand covered track: the first, 33.7km leading to the Hotel QSAR AL SARAB followed by a longer 53km to Umm Zamul.