Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mongol Derby Day 7

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Day 7. August 15, 2017

The Boys are Back in Town - Katy Willings, Derby Chief
(Michelle Tanaka at finish camp to newshound from there)

We have a winner! Well, two actually, and three riders over the line nursing their newly minted Mongol Derby sores). For the first time since 2012 we have a male-dominated leaderboard. Ed Fernon of Australia and Barry Armitage of South Africa crossed the line together at 17:34, brother in arms after 7 days of fierce competition and grueling riding. Close in behind them at 19:01 was Jakkie Mellet, also of South Africa, who vied for the lead through much of the race.

So many scores were settled and loose ends tied up by this evening's result, and some extraordinary benchmarks set.

2017 brought the fastest ever finish; mid afternoon on the 7th day after a slightly tardy 11:11 start on Wednesday last week.

It was also the longest ever Derby; 1020km of incredibly open steppe, a veritable ocean of green, which after some much needed rainfall in the days prior to, and early in, the event, made for a spectacular arena.

Jakkie lost his lead this morning after an unfortunate "horse not great in traffic" incident, which meant he had to back-track to Urtuu 25 on foot and retrieve a more suitable mount. His original choice decked him when a car came past (doesn't happen all that often in Mongolia, to be fair) and fled back to the station, saddle round belly. In the bid for freedom JJ lost a stirrup leather, and the herders helped him fashion something out of rope to ride home on. Meanwhile Ed and Barry snuck past, gaining 20 kms. Amazingly he did catch up and get his nose in front again, but squandered the lead again having pushed too hard to retake it - his 27th horse didn't pass the vet check. So he sat a penalty as BA and EF cruised past again.
Here's Hugh and Cozy, our multi-tasking vet/event manager team, towing referee Charles on their way to set up U26. Much better by horse
Here's Hugh and Cozy, our multi-tasking vet/event manager team, towing referee Charles on their way to set up U26. Much better by horse
Amazingly, this is Barry's 3rd Derby. He was first across the line in 2012 too, but subsequently lost the race on a vet penalty. Many a buttock was clenched watching him hone in on the finish. Ditto Ed, who has led or been thereabouts throughout the race, pushing hard for every racing minute and falling foul of the vets and refs a couple of times. That's how you end up an Olympic athlete, no doubt. In the event, they cruised most of the day riding skilfully within themselves, in hot and intense conditions, and unable to put any real distance between each other. In a great example of gentlemanly endeavor they elected to ride over the line together. If 1000 kms couldn't split them, so be it. No showboating, no risk taking, they just got their horses home and promptly took them into Khangal Lake, where we have created our finish camp, for a well-earned swim and cool down.


Amanda Charlton and Leslie Wylie enjoying a bowlful of dumplings for breakfast. Truly a sublime start to the day (and portable with the aid of a ziplock bag).
Amanda Charlton and Leslie Wylie enjoying a bowlful of dumplings for breakfast. Truly a sublime start to the day (and portable with the aid of a ziplock bag).

Don't Stop Me Now

Some highlights from further back in the field. Actually the highlights are more like low-lights, because most of the chasing pack, mid-field and rear guard just kept buggering on today. Some cracking 3 and 4-leg days from the likes of BW, RM, LT, PR, CL...they seem to have got into their rhythm of eat, sleep, ride,repeat. Shout outs to ST and CP who seem to have made camping between urtuus something of an art form too, another clockwork day's riding. MB who got off to a very slow start and got shuffled up the field in a car once he was some 60kms off the pace rode through four stations today. That's pretty much the Derby Gold Standard. Hats off.


42 cracking Mongolian warrior-horses bagged and tagged and on the line for our lucky riders. That's what an urtuu should look like folks.
42 cracking Mongolian warrior-horses bagged and tagged and on the line for our lucky riders. That's what an urtuu should look like folks.

Cry Me a River

Two items under this heading. Paul Richards riding upsides of our whizzkid mounted camerawoman Chloe - it was his wife's birthday, and this is the longest period they have spent apart in 36 years. Understandably, the tears started to flow, first Paul's, and then, Chloe's. Look out for some wobbly camerawork there.

Secondly, the Kherlen and Onon rivers flowing fast in the latter section of the course, and the volume of water in some of the low ground swallowed a few of our vehicles whole. 1 referee, 2 vets, one film crew and the Blood Wagon were all part digested by the flood plains of Khentii. At five separate intervals we had riders approaching urtuus with the vet team assigned to that urtuu digging out of a bog on their way to post. Some impressive day saving behind the scenes today.

***

19.55 JM has passed the vet check. confirming him as 3rd place finish. Congratulations to Mr Mellet.

17:55. Vet check passed. It's confirmed. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are proud and honoured to announce that Mr Barry Armitage from South Africa and Mr Ed Fernon from Australia are joint winners of the 2017 Mongol Derby. The world's longest and toughest horse race has new champions. Congratulations gentlemen.

And how did they celebrate their glory? By getting straight in the lake - with their horses.

Bloody good show.

17:34. Barry Armitage and Ed Fernon have crossed the line and completed the 2017 Mongol Derby. Awaiting vet check...