It’s character building…”

Glenn called in again for Day 5. It’s been a very tough day for the riders.

Today’s stage was extraordinary in so many ways. The special started at approximately 3,000m above sea level and headed towards the Pacific. Relatively normal altitudes were only found beyond WP6, and the terrain was a mix of ruts, rocks, dusty gravel and eventually massive sand dunes just overlooking the coastline. Ending the stage was a spectacular 2.3km descent down a near featureless dune into the bivouac. What few features there were would have lead to a dangerous free-fall into the sand below if the competitors didn’t choose their path wisely. All competitors would have found the day challenging and there were a number of riders out with injuries. Warren Strange and Jacob Smith both had falls today but remain in the running.

Due to his frustrating time loss yesterday, Jake started 86th on the stage today and was forced to pass numerous riders in dusty conditions. Time is always lost when dealing with traffic in dust, but he applied pressure right from the beginning and crossed WP1 in 59th. He reached 30th at a couple of points, but finished 43rd for the day. This leaves him 33rd overall, 03:11:07 down on the leader. Although uninjured in his tumble, Jacob has been contending with strength-sapping diarrhoea, making dehydration a concern.

Warren started 49th off the line, and was running as high as 24th fastest on the stage before dropping back to 37th at the end of the special. He now stands 83rd overall,  08:03:27 back from the race leader. He has hurt one knee but is set to push on.

Mark Davidson is still with the team, helping with getting the remaining two riders prepared and on their way. It’s scant consolation for his withdrawal from the event but his presence is appreciated.

Sadly, Glenn told me that Australia’s Bruce Garland and “Harry” Suzuki had a painful day in their Isuzu D-Max. Bruce was heading to see the medicos for a check up on his back as we spoke. They managed to limp home for the day. It was looking like a promising event for the duo, having been running in the top 20 for much of the race so far so hopefully they can repair the car and get moving again.

The crew have settled into a steady rhythm of work and sleep and are coping well. Glenn is having a ball in the truck. He was lost for words trying to describe the incredible scene of headlights in the darkness on the big dune above the bivouac as competitors attempted to safely make their descent.

Tomorrow’s special starts from the bivouac in Iquique and sees the riders cover 456km before embarking on a 265km liaison to Arica. Never much further than 50km inland, the dramatic scenery is bound to continue. The much anticipated rest day awaits the following day.

Pictures from Day 4 and Day 5

Sleep. Take it anywhere you can find it.

The bivouac is a busy. busy place in the evenings.

More resting!

The weather came in during the passage into Chile.

Some of the small village dwellings up in the mountains.

For all the difficulties everyone had with the altitude, there are people who live and work here.

Plenty of traffic in places.

The crew were treated to this sort of terrain throughout the transport.

More villages.

Glenn on oxygen! A cold and altitude don't mix.

The beast!

The border into Chile.

Amazing views everywhere...

Such a barren, arid landscape up high...

Certain parts look like a martian landscape.

Tail lights in the sunset.

Warren all geared up. With altitude comes cold, even more so on two wheels.

Jacob and Warren.

Hitting flatter land again.

At last, the truck meets the Pacific.

The drive along the coast was especially pleasant.

Evidence the of owners of this truck getting 100% of useful life out of a tyre.

This would have been interesting at 90 kph! Not the GHR truck...

More changes in geography.

More coast road.

A tired Jacob Smith...

A Dakar scooter?

Jacob Smith and Jacob Black from SBS

This gives some sense of the enormous dune above the bivouac.

Great vantage point for spectating. There was no way to come down this slowly.

One of the flying trucks.

Spectators everywhere...

Jacob coming in to bivouac...

(Please excuse the mark on the camera lens!)

Glenn’s closing comment was that if the guys can get through today, they can get through anything!