The back and the front of the race came together again today at Transition 4 in As Pontes, when those teams who were short-coursed at TA2 were brought forward to restart the race, setting off again only after the top 5 teams had passed through.
Fourteen teams had been bussed to the TA, arriving around midday, and they then had to wait for the leaders to pass by, which didn’t happen until 21.00. The teams may not be complete and could have missed checkpoints, but they were all glad to have the chance to start racing again after a night’s rest, and any full teams will be ranked according to how much they have done.
During the evening there was a rare chance for these teams to see the leaders and watch them in transition. When both NIAR and Torpedo Vidaraid were in transition together there was quite a crowd of racers at the entrance to the transition tent. Ron Eaglin of the Adventure Kidney team said, “By most standards we are pretty good athletes, but that first trek blew us away and we look at the leader times and think ‘how is that humanly possible!’ Those guys must be really good at dealing with suffering.”
His team had opted to stop after completing the first trek, with a hotel stopover on the way to get out of the awful weather. “We knew if we tried the ride we might not make the second cut at 10.00am this morning, which is when the bus left to come here,” he said. They had been with the British K2 team at TA1, and they did opt to continue.
“We just kept moving on the trek,” Adam Rose said. “Then at the first transition we went to the chairlift to do the downhill and zip line and found it was all shut. So, we had to get ourselves to the top of the mountain and that was a hard grind riding up there, and the weather was still awful. On the ride Julie had 7 layers on and was still cold, and blown over by the wind. In the end we cut some of the ride route to make it to TA2 in time to be brought forward.”
They just made it, arriving with about 30 minutes to spare before the bus left, and were astonished (and a bit emotional) when the whole hall of racers stood and applauded them as they came in. Their efforts to keep going against the odds were appreciated.
The team had watched the leaders arrive in As Pontes, saying the Estonians looked pretty good and composed, and the SAFAT team were “all over the place and wrecked”. Following these two teams came NIAR and Torpedo Vidaraid, arriving a couple of minutes apart. There were in a transition race, which was won by the more efficient and focussed Vidaraid team, who left 10 minutes before their rivals.
Their captain Urtzi Iglesias said, “We had a slow start as the pace was too fast for us, and there was too much road, but now the plan is to push hard to the end and we feel we are getting stronger every day. Things have been good with Isla in the team for the first time.” He said they had stopped for coffee for 15 minutes, which is when NIAR moved past them.
Isla Smith was working quietly on her gear and boxes, doing well to keep pace with the swift transition of the team, but the soles of both of her feet looked very macerated and extremely sore when she changed shoes and socks. “I just have to hope they last to the end,” she said. Ron Eaglin would have said she was good at suffering, and she will suffer some more on the next 65km trek stage.
NIAR were much slower to move through transition, but had caught up a bit by the time the two teams arrived at the nearby SUP stage on As Pontes lake (which is a flooded quarry, not shown on the tracking map). This was a short out and back to get a checkpoint along the shore, and was a trip SAFAT had to do twice as they forgot their routebook, which is what teams have to punch at the checkpoint. So they had to go back again, which they were not happy about.
Orbital AR were the 5th team through transition and once they were clear the restarting teams could gather to set off again. Each one was introduced and photographed, the music was playing and the announcer built up the atmosphere, so they set off with an adrenaline boost and in good spirits.
All the teams leaving As Pontes tonight have the 65km trek, an 11km kayak and then another 32km trek to complete to reach the finish line. Teams have been talking about the end of the race being a 100km trek with a short paddle in the middle, but shouldn’t dismiss the kayak, which is in a tidal river and may be a lot harder than they think.
Photos: Adventure Sports Media