This past 24 hours saw the leaders go straight into a head on head face-off which started at near first light sliding down the spectacular zipline. Off a “big” cliff and across the river seemed easy enough and fun I’m sure. But when Skylotec Adventure had to go back to the TA to mark the checkpoints for the kayak leg on their map the furnace fired up.
The heat continued through a somewhat simple 25 klm kayak. Thunderbolt AR got a 40 min or so lead paddling off ahead. What eventuated though was the first showing of the Skylotec fragility but also their tenacity under pressure. Startling tracking pundits the Swedish team pulled back the time in only a short period. We now know they are very good paddlers. They then shadowed the leaders down the river to the sea. Thunderbolt AR are no slouches on the paddle but Skylotec rather than get down on themselves from their error, athletically they lifted. The spirit must be in abundance in this team. Further signs of this do or die trying attitude came along again later.
Near the end of the kayak leg Thunderbolt AR still holding on to a slim 1 klm margin Skylotec “went to shore” – not following Thunderbolt to the TA. They went from one bank to another – even backwards. Emergency toilet stop? Possibly an incorrect making of cps on this leg in their prior haste. Once again that added incredible speed when needed like “Dom in The Fast and The Furious” turning on the nitro showed itself. Within a very short period they were back with Thunderbolt AR face to face on the sand after swimming across the river – standing on the sandbank.
It appeared Skylotec would self implode sooner or later whilst Thunderbolt AR continued more or less smoothly along at their own pace. Things for looking good for the Thunderbolts we thought. Behind the next grouping of East Wind and Neverest Jabberwock appeared to be travelling in tandem. Not together but like East Wind had an invisible tow rope back a few kilometres to the South Africans. If the Jabberwocks team can snag a third it will be their shout for St Francis Brewery beers at the finish line.
Now to confuse the mix, all these teams will be serving a 1 hour penalty at the final TA for going out of bounds on the beach trek. Surely this plays into the hands of whoever makes this TA first between the two groups. Refresh and complete the 48klm trek with up to say 50 mins sleep. I would think this imposed sleep will rest those thread bear navigating minds just enough to get them home rather than bend and break.
Back to the day into night MTB which followed the shortish beach trek. This long and hilly 123 MTB tested the teams with many small navigational errors but each time either Skylotec or the Thunderbolts would recover. The longer the MTB went the tide started to turn. No longer was it Skylotec making small errors but the Thunderbolts. These two had been pushing each other mercilessly for now 24 hours. Racing to obtain a dominant position. Then the fog of night and going so hard had its effect. Thunderbolt AR missed a CP and had to go back. Two hours or so was enough for the rubber band to break – for the time being anyway.
Skylotec are now on the final trek leg holding a 12 k or so lead over Thunderbolts. An image just sent by phone live off the sand shows Skylotec to be looking in good shape but in the dunes anything can still happen. Thunderbolt AR are chasing hard. Neverest Jabberwock are having a final push to the line – must be riding MTB on the trek! Only 3k behind Thunderbolts and still plenty of distance to go. Can they take Thunderbolt AR. Can Thunderbolt AR keep moving and will they see Jabberwocks in time to dig out something special to hold them off. More twist and turns than the Baviaans trek.
The big surprise is that East Wind have surrendered third place. Rumour has it one of their team members has been sick for at least a day. Maybe this is taking its toll or it could be the Jabberwocks thriving off local support. The finish is going down to the wire and there is only one seat for the winner. Special mention must be made of the darkhorse just behind the lead four, Nantes Adventures. This team has been running solo – no one to bounce off, to chase or lead. Just themselves and the race – that’s tough. They won’t get a podium (but who could know) but East Wind are struggling.
Its great to see the last three ARWS events produce such exciting races. Ecuador we had the new breed of younger racers coming through, Raid Gallaecia a nail baiter to the line and now Expedition Africa producing such a beautiful and exciting race to let us at home live out our dreams vicariously through their efforts.
So good. Make sure you check the live site – this is not the only excitement in this race going on. Many teams having extraordinary adventures and some superb images, videos and reports covering the whole field. Click here for the live final hours.