I apologise for the late post! Things are so busy here, there's always something to do. I've just come in from outside where we've been massaging the dogs, walking them, treating feet, feeding and so on. It really does take hours but its great bonding time with the dogs so I like it... And it means the blog is left to last. :-)
Today was so warm again and foggy. At times the mushers couldn't even see their lead dogs. Milos said it was quite nice not to be able to see where he was going so the down hills weren't so scary!! It was another tough stage but he said easier (for him physically) than yesterday. But it was 77km and a 2800m ascent with one slope some 14km long at an incline of 14%! That's like level 14 on a treadmill in the gym for those that don't know... For 14km! And that was just one hill. You get the picture and unsurprisingly the fitter mushers are finding themselves in front. The rest are nursing cramping legs and sore muscles.
In summary Milos said he had a slow start, taking it easy and pacing the team. But team after team caught him so close to the start, some thought he had troubles. He said Pontier and Vondrak (both starting behind him) overtook him within the first few km and he watched them all pass. Then after 25km the big, long hill came and one by one he passed them... Pontier, Vondrak, Radek, about 15 teams in total. All of them have teams that don't work so good up hills. Because the going is so slow and it's harder for the musher than the dogs, the team can get a bit bored and start messing around or becoming unfocused. Milos said the secret for him is to just keep going, however slow, just don't let the dogs lose focus.
After that, teams started to catch him again on the down hill. He doesn't run the dogs fast down hill, never has, but its true to say that both Vondrak and particularly Pontier run their dogs too fast down hill. It's where they gain their time difference (but at what price later in the race?). It was a bit 'cat and mouse' between Milos and Pontier after that with Milos finally arriving to the finish line just a couple of minutes behind Pontier. Vondrak arriving very soon after with Radek. Pointiers dogs looked absolutely knackered at the end, immediately lying down, tongues hanging out. In contrast, our team looked good, standing up and energetic still despite a tough run. The last two stages have really shown Milos isn't running the team beyond their capabilities whereas Pontier is so hungry for the trophy this year he is pushing his team so hard... And it's easy to see when he has the full vet team at his trailer at night. It's a risky strategy but if he can keep going like this, the number one spot will finally be his and he'll be hard to beat (he also likes the later stages of the race). Vondrak is also proving his worth with a very fast team that look good at the finish and we're not sure we can beat them. But we will try and it's a long race so anything can happen.
For those of you wondering what's happened to Radek, he's running some young dogs this year and he had two dogs fight before the race meaning he had to leave one of his leaders behind. But he is still putting up a fight and his problems may settle down as the race goes on. Martin Bily may also be a surprise but he has suffered from really bad training conditions this year and its proving too much to get over - so far.
In the end (taking into account the start time intervals), Milos managed third again. A good race by him as he had some troubles with Sonnie and with the warm weather but I hope we can start to pull back some time over the next few days. We've been promised cold weather coming in (maybe -20) which our dogs would love! And the last stages are usually our best so we keep everything crossed for luck.
I have three pictures tonight... Results from today and the general rankings, and one of Milos at the finish.
See you tomorrow. Good night.