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Gobi March (China) 2014


Jose Manuel 'Chema' Martinez Fernandez and Isis Breiter Win Stage 1 of the Gobi March 2014

Author : Press Release

Hong Kong's Duncan Chau

Jose Manuel 'Chema' Martinez Fernandez of Spain has won the first stage of the Gobi March, completing the 49.2-kilometer stage in an official time of 5:10:38. The double Olympian from Spain took on his first 4 Deserts race earlier this year at the Sahara Race (Jordan) where he finished in second place overall. He is the race favorite here in China and opened with a very strong first stage.

Two competitors came over the finish line just minutes later and seconds from one another: Norway’s Ole Norstad, the CEO of the Ludo Group and an accomplished 4 Deserts racer, completed the day’s course in a time of 5:14:04. Norstad has finished in the top 30 of his two previous races in the series. “The scenery was so beautiful,” said the 45-year-old. “I wanted to stop to take photos but I had a race to run.”

Samuel McGrath arrived in third position in 5:14:11. The ex-British Parachute Regiment Major and author of Parachute Regiment's Fitness Guide is based in Singapore where he works in investment banking. McGrath is an accomplished athlete and is taking on his first 4 Deserts race here in Xinjiang.

Isis Breiter of Mexico placed first in the women's category. The mother of four from Mexico took on the Sahara Race earlier this year and finished in 7:17:15 today. Just minutes later, the second placed women appeared at the finish line: Lene Larsen is a Dane based in Hong Kong and is undertaking her first 4 Deserts race in China. Yang Yijun of South Korea was the third female finisher.

The day opened early this morning with cool and overcast skies. Competitors appeared as the sun rose and gathered around the breakfast fire. Many attested to being restless throughout the night with first day jitters—but spirits around the fire soon warmed as laughter and excitement took over the camp.

Shen-Yu Feng-Chi (Wilson) is here for his first 4 Deserts. “I have no expectations,” said the Taiwanese managing director. “I just want to get through it!”

The weather in the morning was cold and overcast with the possibility of rain lingering in the air. However, as the day progressed the skies cleared up with sun and a cool wind blowing. The starting line was full of energy and excitement, with Team Korea leaping into the air for photo-taking opportunities. Then the 109 competitors set off, heading out into the day’s 49.2 kilometers.

The day opened with a moderate course crossing hills and dry riverbeds, then heading off-road and through a valley with remarkable stone formations. The course at this point became technical due to the uneven terrain and elevation gain—before a final easy route into Camp 2. Competitors noted numerous animals along the course such as deer and camels on the track.

By the mid-afternoon, competitors had all arrived at the Shepherd’s Heaven camp. “My legs are stiff,” said Greg Nance of the United States. “But I heard tomorrow's stage is a bit less hilly so will be easier on the legs.”

Andrew Espin, a data analyst in South Africa and 4 Deserts veteran voted the early sections of todays course in his Top 10 of best places to run. He rated it up there with Stage 2 of the Atacama Crossing—to which Jessica Schumann of Germany seconded enthusiastically.

Lee Kiho and Lee Seungmin of South Korea were the final competitors over the finish line. As Kiho stepped over the line he looked radiantly happy and told us, "this is the best moment and I am ready to go again tomorrow."

There are lots of stiff legs around camp and it will be an early night for most. Tomorrow’s stage, Golden Mountains of the Altai, follows the foot of the Altai mountain range which separates China and Kazakhstan. It’s a 39.8-course and considered fairly easy—allowing competitors a chance to settle into the race and admire the extraordinary landscape.

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