A rough day, but not unexpected…

The crossing of the Andes was no picnic today.

First off, those who had been watching the timing for the checkpoints overnight will have seen Mark drop off the charts.

Mark Davidson had a monumental crash near the highest part of the Andes crossing. He blacked out as he was riding, crashed and came to with people feeding him coca leaves. At the moment it looks like he has broken a few ribs and sustained some muscle damage. The bike was very much second hand too. It was a very heart breaking decision to make, but Mark has officially withdrawn from the event. The team knew they could make good with the crash damage, but Mark was not able to lift his bike. Going on knowing that the sand stages were still to come would have been pointless. The team are very sad to see him out, the potential for injury if he crashed again with those injuries was too great a risk.

It turned out that Warren Strange had missed a waypoint yesterday and was consequently relegated way back down the starting order. Not letting that get in his way he got straight down to business, passing many riders to climb the standings again. He was the 141st rider off the start, but crossed WP1 in 77th place, WP2 in 56th place and ended the special in 49th place. His start in 49th should see him catch a few throughout the day.

Jacob Smith was 25th off the start of the special and climbed to 17th for the stage at WP5 but then struck problems less than 30km from the end. The tyre clearance issue with the rear tanks returned and having holed the rear tank he ran out of fuel, losing more than 35 minutes. He eventually crossed the line in 86th place for the stage, 00:56:57 off the leader. Importantly, Jake had the navigation completely under control so he knows there’s nothing more he could have done. Starting 86th tomorrow will mean he will be have many to pass, but caution will be vital while the field are descending from the mountains.

The rear tanks were found to be an issue with the Michelin tyres used by the GHR team. To their credit, the tank manufacturer has remoulded new tanks to suit and someone is flying in to Chile with some replacements in their luggage. New equipment was always a concern for Glenn, but the new tanks should be available within a day or so. Sometimes you get away with such risks, but this year has not been the year. At least a fix is happening.

The support crew encountered multiple vehicles stopped along the road up the hill, just refusing to run. Some trucks could only manage 1st or 2nd gear due to the lack of oxygen. Robby Gordon’s truck only pulled in to bivouac as we were talking but the GHR guys had made better time than expected, arriving at 8.30 pm their time. This morning they had ensured that they were carrying as much diesel as possible to prevent the need to refuel on transport. The clutch on the truck went on holiday at altitude today but returned as the atmospheric density returned to more friendly levels.

Glenn struggled with the altitude too and had to seek help from some of the medical support teams. The lack of air combined with a cold he has picked up saw him receive some medication and time on oxygen. The scenery is incredible, but it will be a cold night and I am sure everyone will be relieved to get back to relatively flat land tomorrow.

We’re still trying to get some pics out – Glenn Hoffmann has borrowed a camera from Glenn Brown after his own went missing but is yet to send images. I’ll get them up as soon as they arrive. I can’t wait for them – Glenn H won’t stop raving about the places he’s seen!

There are still about two full Australian Safaris to go in terms of race time and distance, so Jacob and Warren still have many days to show the world what they are made of. Once again, the riders are strong and other than the issues with fuel tanks the bikes are proving to be extremely robust.

More as it happens… Ed.