After being out of contact for a the last couple of days in the desert ('Rub Al Khali' translates as 'the empty quarter' - the main inhabitants being camels, understandably a cellphone tower is probaly a low priority!), I have finally had another update from Stu.
The teams were resting part way through the bike section at the luxurious five star Qasr Al Sarab resort (the sponsor for the first placed Kiwi team!). Stu commented that the racing was hotting up "We are at the rest stop on the bike. We lost 1.5 minutes to Vibram Sport2000 on the first section of the ride, they got a break and we couldn't chase them down. We also got ANOTHER 5 minute penalty on the trek for losing a plug! The French seem stronger on the bike so far. It will be very very close!"
Stu's team seem to be doing their best to make the race exciting for us back home - they have accumulated THREE 5 minute penalties so far for minor infractions of the race rules:
- for losing an SI card (a small plastic electronic timing stick) on the prologue swim section. The SI cards are usually attatched to an athletes wrist with a plastic strap, I can only assume the strap wasn't tight enough and slipped off.
- for not having the sails up on the kayaks at the start of the kayak section. Not sure why this happened - the team has all raced in Abu Dhabi before, and I remember teams getting penalised for this in previous years! Perhaps there was some misunderstanding about the definition of what constituted the 'start' i.e the Adventure Triathlon kayak versus the Kayak proper section which started later that day.
- losing the 'plug' on the trek (not sure what the plug is - maybe off their GPS tracker or other mandatory gear?)
So on paper, ADCO NZ should be comfortably holding second place by some 20 mins or so, but they now find themselves leading by only 5 mins - definitely making for a tight finish! The French (including Kiwi Dwarne Farley) are very aware of the closing gap, captain Jacky Boisset commented "Our objective is to nibble at the time difference and make them work as hard as possible over the next couple of days was to - hopefully they will weaken, but with a headwind like this, it will be just as tough for us".
The good news is that teams are now two thirds of the way through the final section of the bike ride, and ADCO and Vibram Sport2000 look to be riding very closely together. I imagine both teams will be giving it everything they have in an effort to gain an advantage over the other - a contrast to the desert trek, where it sounds like the top teams were somewhat more relaxed and happy to travel together!