It was an early start this morning. Having spent two nights in the gym I think everyone will be pleased to move on to the next area of Lanslebourg where we sleep in a bed! But first we had a run to prepare for. A relatively short one of 50km and not much altitude gain or loss (in relative terms anyway!).
With Balto and Slash still out of the race (although they are recovering slowly), Gina suffering from a swollen toe (also improving today) and Falco suffering a slight infection of a wound from days ago, Heiney needing a rest as well as Grony, Milos decided to take 8 dogs compared to most taking 9 (Radek, Jimmy Petterson from Sweden and jiri) and both the french taking 10 dogs. We need to save as many dogs as possible for the longer stages as we don't have much in reserve as it stands now. So, we had low expectations today knowing we would allow Radek to creep closer to us and again lose minutes to the leaders but if we are to finish the race then this is how it had to be.
So, we were very pleasantly surprised when Milos crossed the line after Remy Coste (who ended up in 7th with the start time difference). Of course Milos started some minutes before Radek, Jiri and Pontier so it was just a question of watching the clock. In the end, jiri came in first, Radek second (gaining another 2n 20s on us) and Milos third! A fantastic achievement by the team at a time when spirits have been quite low due to our (what feels like bad luck) during the race this year. It's given us a boost and what with our favourite stages coming up we can at least hope we may hold on to third place. If we can get Balto and Slash on their feet again then even better but I know Milos will only run them if he's 100% sure he can rely on them to make it.
Pontier dropped back a little today so it will be interesting to see what that does to the overall rankings. Perhaps because his dogs are starting to tire after such hard and super fast stages in recent days, who knows. But Daniel did well again today and followed Milos by another minute and half. Jimmy also had a really good race and said his dogs seem to be warming up to the race now.
The French teams still look strong, fast and threatening but if I was a betting person my money would be on Jiri. His dogs look fantastic. As long as he doesn't make a mistake or get into trouble, I think he'll get the trophy this year. But we've said it before... This an unpredictable race and anything could happen.
A special mention should go to Toby as the only dog that has completed every stage so far without a break. He still looks so strong and not tiring one bit. He needs a bit of extra feeding though. And of course, Waf, who is Milos's best leader. He's also looking good with one days rest so far. He has a lot of admirers here wanting to breed from him!
This afternoon we drive to Lanslebourg for the final stages. Tomorrow is a late start at 4.30pm as its an overnight bivouac stage. This will not only gives the dogs an extra few hours to rest but also allows us some time to recover.
I leave you with pictures from the start line, a view of the region we're in and the stage/general ranking results showing Jiri now back in lead.
Thanks again for your support!