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Day 5. August 13, 2017.
The fantastic Julian Herbert has been out there on the steppe following the riders and clicking away. Thanks to marvellous folks over at AST Systems he's even managed to send them back to HQ - which is nothing short of a miracle. Today he was following our fearless leaders.
Oh, Marie. You’ve practically handed it to the boys today with your third vet penalty of the race. Marie Palzer got herself a four-hour, third-offense vet penalty at U18 today—on top of the prior two hours at U16. Riders have been well-briefed on the consequences of less-than-stellar riding. Marie won’t have to sit them until U22 tomorrow, where she will likely watch the rest of the leading pack come through. Which now includes Greg Chant, Rebecca Hewitt (RHW), and Jodie Ward.
Ed Fernon is penalty-free post-U11 so, barring poor decisions in the morning, will breeze in and out of the second Penalty Urtuu. Jakkie Mellet will cool his heels for two hours, when Barry Armitage will likely overtake him.
A slew of riders picked up the pace today, riding almost as far as the leaders. It should be noted that Brooke Wharton rode four legs alone. That takes an extra measure of ballsiness.
But a big chunk of the field also encountered quite feisty horses today, beaming out “Help” on their sat trackers for retrieval assistance. Lucy Taylor and James Lester had a bit of fun with broncs just off the horseline this morning, both unhurt after being decked (and this after James’ little prank last night, pretending he hadn’t waited for Lucy at U11 then jumping out to surprise her just as the tears started).
More penalties today. Perhaps it was the Naughty Corner keeping everyone in check yesterday. Many a vehicle carry-forward jettisoned riders to the next urtuu as well as to the top of the Naughty List (can’t fully blame them, after this spirited bunch of steeds).
Back at HQ, we had to make some angry phone calls to the Gatekeeper of the railway underpass outside U13, who didn’t want to let our crews through. Said it was fine for the horses to cross, but cars were a separate matter. He’s not wrong (horses and cars are admittedly very different), but we had urtuus to manage, so set him straight.
The sixth retirement of the race is Marianne Williams, who arrived in UB overnight. A firecracker even in the SOS clinic. Despite requiring clavicle operation as a result of falling in “every marmot hole in Mongolia,” she’s in marvellous form. Derby Chief Willings was able to escape the Ops Room for a hot second to bring flowers and gossip just as MW ordered a ribeye (rare), massive glass of wine (red), and cheesecake for lunch. We will see her at the finish party in UB August 19.
As ever, much of this lot love to sleep en plein air, but the family at U14 is stuck feeding the slumber partiers tonight.
1631. “Four seasons in a week, har har.” That’s Mongolian weather for you. Day 2 saw borderline hypothermia; snorkels and x-ray vision were highly recommended. Day 5: blazing sun. Mercury may not read sky-high, but when you’re kitted out riding for 13 hours, zero shade, it’s scorching. Hope no one’s chucked their sun cream. And that no one chucks their rain gear. Because likely more wet ahead (naturally), according to our course guru Darren. They’re about to cross into Jargaltkhan. Different province, different climate. Ready the machetes for hacking through the jungle.
13:20. That’s a big-ass spread halfway through Day 5. Gonna need a bigger board here at HQ (in case you’re wondering, we’ve got an LCD HD touchscreen with holograph messaging capabilities spanning an entire wall in the Ops Room. Jokes.)
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