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Wyoming Range To Wind River Range – The Gap Opens

Written by Rob Howard http://www.sleepmonsters.com

The first overnight trek of a big race always splits the field up, with the leaders maintaining a much faster pace on foot and in the darkness.  And that’s just what happened on leg 4 as teams tackled the 38 mile trekking leg across the Wyoming Range and through the Bridger Teton National Park. The leading teams were still close together, but had moved away from the mid-pack, while the less experienced had fallen back.

Tiki Tour had a small lead starting this stage, but later in the night one of the team had difficulties and they subsequently came down off the ridge and were the first team to withdraw.  It was a sad end to the race for the GODZone winners and they came down in an area which it took some time to collect them from.

Predictably it was Seagate who moved into the lead on this stage but those chasing were not far behind and on arrival at the end of the trek at TA3 the top 6 teams were all still within 33 minutes of each other.

The trek was mostly along ridge lines heading south so the navigational difficulty wasn’t high, although the Uruguayan team did get themselves lost and the highly ranked French team FMR lost considerable time on the leading pack when they missed the route.

I didn’t hear reports of any bear encounters, though wolves were heard howling near the TA during the night.  It had been chilly and little windy overnight, but nothing to worry the teams in the top half of the race, who all looked comfortable.

Wouter Huitzing from R’ADYS Team Switzerland simply said, “It was not difficult – we just kept going south along the ridges.”  This team left the TA on their bikes only to return, realising they were missing a team bib.  Boxes were reopened and it was frantically searched for … until Anita Lehmann realised she was wearing two bibs!

The transition was set in a beautiful open valley in the Bridger Teton National Forest and later in the morning it became hot and sunny for the arriving teams.  Here they reassembled their bikes for leg 5, an 83 mile ride passing through the town of Pinedale, where the checkpoint was hung on a large statue outside the visitor centre. (Which is where I’m writing this report – they are very welcoming folk!)

The early part of the ride was on a gravel road through the forest to the park boundary, after which the road was tarmac and the teams were flying along at high speed in a streamlined peleton, a rare sight in an adventure race.  (There were even reports of teams joining forces to chase down Seagate in this way.)

After leaving the park the bike route entered flat open prairie lands of mixed farming and cattle ranches, and it was fortunate it wasn’t windy.  Pinedale was a chance to stop to eat and drink, and the later stages were more difficult and included some single track riding for the first (and last) time in the race.

With 60% of the ride paved it was always going to be quick, but the leaders were well outside the fastest estimate of 5.5 hours, taking over 7 hours. Race Director Mark Harris says there is some tough navigation at the end of the ride which may well give problems to the teams who arrive in the dark. (It always seems to work out that the slower teams races are timed to get the tougher sections at night or they end up being hit by the worst of the weather.)

At the time of writing the top 5 teams have finished the ride and started Leg 6, which is a 40 mile trek across the Wind River Range to South Pass City, where the transition is in a jail!

At the same time there still 20 teams who have not yet finished the first trek in the Wyoming Range … so the gap in the field which started to open up last night has widened considerably and will continue to do so

Written by Rob Howard http://www.sleepmonsters.com

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