The Swede Jimmy Pettersson did it! He managed to keep his lead today and finished first, taking his first stand on the podium. He hasn't stopped grinning ever since. :-)
He managed to get a staggering 7 minutes on Jiri who had a dog in the sled almost the entire trail. Radek came third, Daniel Jillaguet fourth and Milos fifth. Jean-Phillippe seemed to be struggling and ended up losing 10 minutes to Milos (J-P came 7th after Miki), a blow to him no doubt at this critical time in the race. He now only leads Milos by 4 minutes. Jiri continues to bolster his position in lead gaining almost half an hours gap between him and Pontier now. And Jiri's dogs still look really strong despite one in the sled today. So do Jimmys.
Jimmy now has his eye on Radek and almost certainly Daniel. The time difference between Jimmy and Daniel is not so much, about 4 minutes, which must be very threatening for the Frenchman. But he has half an hour to Radek which may be a step too far, especially as the Czech is giving a strong performance now.
For Milos, he really doesn't have ambition for 2nd place but he would like to keep third if possible. But the pressure from Radek in fourth means that we need good results to not lose too much time. We have half an hour to Radek which may seem a comfortable lead but it can be easily halved in one stage if something goes wrong. So Milos's game play is always a safe run, don't push too hard and hope to bring the dogs back in good shape.
Tomorrow is a Mass start (not my favourite as its very tempting to go too fast - watch for Pontier, Juillaguet, Salva and probably Jimmy getting a super fast start) but its also a long stage of 86km so anyone going too fast in the beginning will most likely pay by the end, unless Lady Luck is on their side. It's an afternoon stage so most likely a late blog again.
A quick update on the dogs before I go. Balto and Gina should be good to go tomorrow but Slash has taken a turn for the worse and is most likely out if the race. Wuf is making a quick recovery just as 3 other dogs look like they may be going down with the same bug as the others. We are working really hard on giving all of them liquids/hydration to try and boost their resistance to it. We're not the only ones suffering. It seems quite a few dogs are sick with the same thing... That's the problem at races. Lots of new dogs together bringing new bacteria and viruses at a time when immunity is low due to fatigue.
Talking about fatigue, I'm exhausted and off to bed. Good night! Wish us luck tomorrow, we need another solid performance from the team.
Picture of the results and Milos at the finish with Jiri.