Sunday, May 7, 2000
I caught up with the assistance crew for team Salomon/Land Rover and found out that the team not only had car troubles, but also apparent misinformation regarding the arrival times of the teams into CP39. Sandy Sandblom said, "We left CP29 at 8:30am on the morning of May 4th and arrived late at 7pm the following evening. We slept for four hours in Kathmandu, and the driver refused to stay with us at the hotel and was then one hour late for the departure from Kathmandu."
They apparently hooked up with Nokia Adventure assistance crew and drove through together. Unfortunately, Nokia's vehicle got a flat that needed to be changed and Salomon/Land Rover's radiator had to be constantly refilled with water. This took precious time away for the crew's early arrival to CP39.
"We were told at AP3, that no team was expected to arrive at AP4 until early evening [May 5th]," said a crew member. When I talked to Ertips assistance crew they said that it took them only 18 hours and they rested in Kathmandu for eight hours. Regardless of the problems and the time difference, the Ertips crew did their job and arrived before any of the competitors. They even helped Salomon/Land Rover by showing them their maps for the upcoming section to get them on their way.
At the finish line, the morning was in full swing as we awaited the arrival of the first team to finish this very long and diversified Raid Gauloises. Patrick Brignoli purchased flower leis to bestow upon the teams as they crossed the finish line. There was considerable tension among the Raid officials as news of the teams came over the radios. The first to arrive at the finish was Nokia Adventure of Finland at 6:47am. They were greeted by cheers from the inquisitive crowd and hugged one another under the Raid banner stretched across the opening gate.
Sarah O'Dell was jubilant and a little shocked. She said she saw Salomon/Land Rover in the middle of the night take a different route than her team. She also said that her team and team Intersport of France were "with each other all night, both having battery problems."
O'Dell admitted her team was "basically injury free, but they made many mistakes." She added that she really "admired Team Salomon/Land Rover, who is a much smoother team. But we just kept plugging along. I gave everything that I had." She said also that she "remembers seeing Ertips early in the morning, pushing their bikes through a tough area" and figured that they had bike problems, especially when they didn't come after her team.
Intersport arrived very closely behind at 6:50am. They were close, but it didn't bring the smiles of first place. Team member Beatrice Piolat said that many things affected their finish. "I think after six days of racing and finally we have used up so much energy, very hungry and thirsty, not enough to last." Regarding navigation errors, "We lost a little after the Hydro Speed, we went right instead of left. I think we lost one and a half hours, very important, because the door closed, we were stuck [at CP27]."
I reminded her that we were a long way from Oman (her first of five Raids) to here, she replied, "You have to hold the dream."
She finished 9th in the South Africa/Lesotho Raid. "When you finish two or three days after the leaders, it is not really a race." She commented that she thought of Oman on the walk before the bike and called it "an endless death march, but I trusted the guys." She felt that as far as mistakes, of which the team made many, one was that their "pace was too erratic." But she quickly added, "I've got some determination, we believed that we could do it."
"I reached a dream that I've had since 1991, when I heard about it (the Raid), I kept coming back and coming back. It was a great opportunity," O'Dell continued. The guys on her team said that the best advice that Sarah gave was "to eat good food during the race at the assistance points and on the field." But she felt that she never did her usual things, like change socks, put on sunscreen and eat correctly. She felt lucky to have finished under these tough conditions.
Her teammate Petri Forsman said they had two hours of penalties to overcome, one for Sarah not having proper credentials in the Hydro Speed, and one for not having a tent. "We were using an old Raid book list," Forsman admitted. He also added that they did not get overly involved with the maps regarding routes. They worked on sections, leaving their options open while racing. This is the first Raid for her group of guys, but they have done many different races to prepare for this.
"We were shocked, because we were stopped with at least one hour before next team arrived, they left and we just," he stops mid-sentence with a dazed look on his face. "We were very disappointed," again he stops and can't continue with the interview.
In response to this, O'Dell claims, "We were waved over and stopped many times throughout the night. We stopped once voluntarily, after that, just kept going."
Salomon/Land Rover calmly and quietly stepped across the finish line at 07:52. They were very stoic and solemn, but smiling. Ian Adamson's first words were that he had "fur on my teeth." Team members said the police were very nice to them.
"It was crazy, three teams going 30km per hour in the dark, crashing into things, crazy," Adamson said, before adding that the "country was stunning."
His teammate John Howard added, "up until last night, it was quite a nice race, plenty of sleep, thought we'd have two nights rafting, only one. Not a normal Raid. Lots of sleep, nearly every night, so many course changes and alterations...saw some nice country." Howard also said he is looking forward to going to Japan, where everything is spotless, for a holiday.
Robert Nagle was quiet, but when asked if this team will remain together, quickly said, "this team is always together. We have many other races planned." All of these teams were last seen heading out of the square with their assistance teams to HQ Arrival to get cleaned up. They are supposed to be shuttled back to Kathmandu early tomorrow to await the awards ceremony on Friday. The rest of us wait in the hot and dusty square for the remainder of the teams to arrive at Janaki Temple.
The first United States team finished early this morning. Team Tactel Ispira crossed the finish line at 06:45 to capture 7th place. I caught up with them at HQ5 around 08:00 in the pouring rain. Rebecca Rusch and Patrick "Herm" Harper were sharing a beer and the rest were showering and eating breakfast. They said they passed team Outlast on the trek leading to the bikes, and when they arrived, they had to wait one hour for their assistance.
They jumped on their bikes and went all night, got turned around and were lost for about one and a half hours. They used an entire bottle of chain lube during the race due to the dusty and dirty conditions.
"It's a little hilarious that we finished 7th, very proud, but we were so sick, Ike and I were almost pulled. I had bronchitis...I actually had a part of me want to quit," Rusch said.
Apparently at CP7 and CP8 their oxygen levels were too low. Team member Isaac "Ike" Wilson explained, "They tried to pull both of us from the race, but we convinced them to let us rest for one hour and then just tried to get to the next CP. We kept a very simple plan, but we put up a big squawk to keep going... the trails were beautiful, not rocky or bad, so no real foot problems. The last hike at the canyon, only tough one....couldn't breathe in Tibet. (We) used an inhaler to help."
He also complimented Mike and Patrick, saying "Patrick is a gem, and Mike is white hot focus. He never gets tired or loses it. So mellow, easy to get along with and never complains."
I asked Rebecca if she would do another Raid and she replied it would depend on the country and the team. "It is cool that really good teams are here," she said. "You have friends and former teammates on other teams that you want to see finish.
"The canyon was my favorite part, beautiful. More my element, spectacular, running downhill, felt better, otherwise my lungs didn't work," she added. This team is slated to leave tomorrow for Kathmandu in a private air-conditioned van that had been arranged for the team as a surprise.
Team Outlast finished in 9th place by persevering over early illnesses and hanging in there together. They joined their support team at HQ5 for beers, a hot pasta meal and showers. They will try to fly out tomorrow as the plane is fully booked today. Barry Siff remembered certain parts of the race.
"At the border (crossing) it hit us when we were between Ertips, Salomon/Land Rover, Intersport; what are we doing here, we were pinching ourselves," Siff said. "We had always hoped that we would finish well, to make top 10 is unbelievable."
As he was describing the beauty of the canyon, members of Tactel Ispira came over to congratulate them and talk about the race. Mattison said, "life doesn't get much hotter than walking from the river to the canyon."
Barry said it was "the hottest, wicked-est part of the race, period, and it was only like 1km."
"We stopped and ate with some local people the night before the canyon," Mattison added. "It was great to see this woman cooking for her entire family. It would be like the first explorers coming to America."
I added that I will never complain about housework again after seeing how very hard the Tibetan and Nepalese women work.
Dirk McFarland wasn't very talkative but wanted to say hi to his two girls, Caitlin and Courtney. When asked if any of them would do another Raid (not a fair question so soon after the finish, but oh well), Chris Burgess, who was very, very sick last night with diarrhea, said, "Yes, with the right situation."
Liz Caldwell, on the other hand, said, "Once I've done something, I'm done. Usually a great experience, but not planning another one right now."
Team Endeavour quickly rushed into camp with just enough time for hugs and to grab their gear bags, not even time to eat and shower, as their support crew of Norman Matte and Steve Harvey had arranged the last of the plane tickets on today's flight for them. They had to leave immediately. Louise Cooper-Lovelace was actually thrilled by this because she wanted "to get back to Nathan. I've thought of nothing but him, I want to see him."
Nathan Fa'ave was injured during the canoe section and was taken to the hospital in Kathmandu to have his separated shoulder reset. The rest of the team continued on their own and finished in 10th place with their group of four. Louise, who thankfully is feeling well physically, especially after her intake of chocolate and potato chips, said, "We came to finish and to do the best we could. The guys never faltered."
The only words I could get out of the guys was Bob Foster saying that last night it was "bloody tough to bike at night, batteries low (no lights)." After a few more hugs from the other US teams present, they headed off still dirty, hungry and thirsty to catch their plane ride.
Provided by Susan Hemond-Dent for Raid Gauloises