February 13, 2010
By: T.C. Worley
So far, the pace of the race is faster than expected. During the night, all teams, except one, made it through checkpoint #3. CP #3 was set up in a sheep shearing facility built in 1906. It was very rustic – in a beautiful, if slightly gross way. It seems that some of those sheep never made it out alive though, as the ground outside was littered with weather-bleached bones. At worst the place was a welcome escape from relentless winds that locals refer to as, “La Escoba de Dios,” translated— “The Broom of God.” The broom caused one racer to groan in broken english “The wind very difficult.” After racing straight through the night, Team Gear Junkie found shelter early Wednesday morning in “some farmer’s potato shack.” If it were not for the wind, the weather for this race would be perfect. Temperatures have been cool during the day, but not cold. And as my cab driver told me the first day I arrived in Patagonia, “It rain every day, even only a little.” His forecast has been dead-on so far. Every day has been partly cloudy, but some sun and small pockets of rain.
The landscape continues to change as the race heads almost straight south today. From rolling hills of scrub that some described as “Like North Dakota, but with bigger hills” to valleys with groves of dead and twisted, silver trunked trees. Half way through the bike section teams could begin to see blue peaks on the horizon. We’ve seen many “Zorro” – or fox in English. And you cannot go far in this area of Patagonia without seeing dozens of Guanaco (again, similar to Llama). While waiting at dusk for teams to mountain bike past, fellow photographer Michael Clark and I were approached by what seemed to be unhappy Guanaco. They ran towards us, whinnying like small horses. Word has it that the males, who keep harems, are quite territorial. We used Michael’s flash to keep them away until a passing truck sent them galloping into the hills.
When racers climb off of the bike they will have left the dry, relatively flat areas and will have begun to cross mountain passes in the Karukina Conservation Area. Here at checkpoint #8, the scenery has reminded some of the mountains on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. I cannot personally vouch for that. Tomorrow I will climb the first hill of the course and get a sneak peek into the snow peaked mountains passes that will bring the teams to the doorstep of the Darwin range.
Defending champs, Team Helly Hansen was first to the transition onto the bike—checkpoint #6. So far in the race, they are the team to watch. However, several other teams are close enough to take the lead if HH was to make a mistake. HH was the first off of the bike in CP# 8 and into the mountain trekking section just before I went to bed. Several other teams would filter through in the night, but most took the opportunity to get some sleep here in the quiet, nearly windless valley of CP #8. The scrambling chaos of the first day has all but faded away and the race is finding its rhythm.—T.C. Worley
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