For most teams last nights stage was about consolidating positions. Jimmy has secured fifth against Juillaguet and Jiri has secured first place. The only fight left is between Milos and Pontier and its proving a really tough one!
Milos was obviously looking to see if he could push the Frenchman last night and put in a really good run getting to the Polar Base first last night. But Pontier stuck to him like glue and let Milos pull him along the whole trail crossing just behind Milos at the top. We haven't had official timings as this is a 2-part stage but it looks like Milos managed to reduce the time difference to Pontier by 1 minute 44 seconds!!! that was an incredible achievement given Pontiers improved performance this year. From what we could see on the trail Pontier was only a minute behind Milos so because of the start time difference he will have been a minute faster so Milos must have taken the extra time on the climb to the Polar Base. Milos is known for his strong performances up hill as much as Pontier is known for fast down hills and as the trail starts with a big down hill, I hope Milos can hold on.
Last night leaves Pontier ahead by a mere 2 minutes. Of course he will want a safe run but he will also take the chance if he sees it and that sort of time difference can easily be made if Pontier has to drop a dog this morning or put one in the sled on this massive 95km trail. (Officially its 88km but Radek measured it on a GPS last year and said it was 95km). It also comes down to dog care as the mushers were alone in caring for the dogs last night and it is a short night so incredibly important that the dogs get as much rest as possible. Both Milos and Pontier are used to being out with the dogs so its just a case of who rested better!
In summary, Pontier has the pressure on him today. Milos's performance last night saw him widen the gap against Radek so his third place looks pretty comfortable now - maybe even as much as 40 minutes. But Pontier also has the advantage of the home crowd and the organisation who openly support him in the race.
In honesty I don't know how Milos feels this morning. I know he has enough of a competitive streak in him to take the chance but whether he'll be pushing to get 2nd today I have no idea... He may just play it safe but with just 2 minutes between them I think it will be impossible not to try.
Whatever happens, it'll be an unbelievably tight finish and my nerves are in tatters already! It's 6.44am and Milos and Pontier have already started the race from Polar Base. They should finish around 11.30am all going well.
A quick note on the dogs... Milos has taken the 10 dogs that have pretty much run the whole race due to sickness. Waf and Toby have done all the stages apart from one! A lucky one at the very start before our sickness troubles arrived. Next in the team with strong performances are Cliff, Patch, Grony, Foxy, Heineken, Spendrup, Wuf and finally Sonnie. All of them have been sick at some point with a diarrhoea bug but have only been out for a couple of days. Balto, Slash, Gina and Falco have done only 2 or 3 stages each due to sickness or injuries from the trailer. We haven't had one running injury the entire time and I hope it stays that way for this stage. But the dogs are really tired now and I can't wait til they get back and we can rest them and spoil them!!!