Moving through the second night of the race the pace slowed, teams stopped to get some sleep, the heavy rain showers continued and the long bike ride came to end, to be replaced a long trek of somewhere between 10 and 15 hours.
Many teams were on the ride for 24 hours or more, even with short course option, and by Sunday morning 14 teams and pairs remained on the full course with almost all of them on the stage 4 trek across the Southern Upland hills. Other teams are either on short courses, racing non-competitively (6 teams) or have retired (7 teams). ITERA Lite is starting to bite.
There is no doubt about the race leaders. Endurancelife Red are in a race on their own, way out front with a huge lead and completed the Southern Uplands trek in the early hours then slept at TA4 at Cappercluech by St. Mary’s Loch. They set off again around 6am and have 4 short stages now to get to the finish line. 30km of mountain biking, a 10km orienteering run where they must split into pairs and navigate separate courses, then 15km of paddling on the Tweed and finally a 25km ride back to the finish in Selkirk. The fastest times for these are predicted at 8 hours so all being well they will finish mid-afternoon.
Most of the other competitive teams took some sleep at the small village hall at Ettrick at the end of the ride. There wasn’t a lot of space there with the hall packed with all of team gear and bike boxes, but it was out of the rain and dry. By morning the majority of teams were on their way, heading for the first of the trekking checkpoints, set at the base of the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall.
The hill trekking after this was steep and the navigation not easy. The leading pair going into the trek were the French duo ‘Breizh Team’ and they opted to take CP20 ahead of 17, 18 and 19, which no other teams did. CP’s can be taken in any order on this stage, so that’s allowable. There are a variety of routes being taken around these checkpoints and the tired navigators are working hard.
Eco Trail Wicklow are pushing Breizh Team in the pairs race, but they headed in the wrong direction after CP18 and made a big climb over Great Hill between 19 and 20 which no other teams have. The Swedish Karlstad Green Multisport team are making steady progress and are currently the 3rd team of 4, having been passed by Endurancelife Celts, who have worked their way back through the field into second place after losing so much time on the ride into Kielder.
The short teams who hadn’t left TA3 in the hall at Ettrick by 06.00 Sunday morning will go direct to TA4 and miss all of the Southern Uplands trek, but the chances are they were planning to do that anyway. The only change to the course on Sunday is when teams leave TA4 they can now ride along the road to take an easier route to CP26 (so the leaders have not gone out of bounds there).
Rob Howard, Sleepmonsters