The top two Italian teams atop Le Grand Mont, just like a Tour de France stage on snow.
Jared finishing the climb up Le Grand Mont
Whoever accused the French of being lazy has never been to the Pierra Menta. Today was like a Tour stage on snow. Katie and I started skinning up the Areches ski area at 6 a.m. so we could cheer on the US team at the very top of the mountain, Le Grand Mont, which sits at 2,687 meters. We started out with a few other spectators but before long, we were literally joined by thousands of people making their way up the mountain by every means imaginable: skis with skins, snowshoes, crampons, you name it. I think there were more people on ski mountaineering gear here than has been sold in the US all year. When we got to Le Grand Mont it was an awesome spectacle – thousands of people lining the course and setting up ‘tailgates’ that would make any American football fan proud, especially since everyone hiked it up over 5,000 feet. Of course, people were eating cheese and drinking hot wine instead of Cheetos and wine coolers, but the idea is the same. As each team cruised by the crowd went wild, cheering, chanting, singing and ringing insanely large cowbells. It was a thrill to be there and everyone on the US team said they got goosebumps as they skied past.
The scene atop Le Grand Mont
Sari with Mont Blac towering behind her
Brandon is all smiles.
Pete and Cary
Jason and Brad
It was another good day for the American team, all of whom loved the technical, dynamic nature of today’s course. The stage included at least one super steep pitch with about 100 switchbacks and a bootpack section over an exposed ridge with a fixed line that required all the teams to clip into with their via ferrata gear. Pete and Carey had another strong day, finishing in 35th place for the day. Brandon and Jared recovered nicely and finished in 79th. Brad and Jason, ever the gentlemen, let Sari and Mona pass them at the bottlenecked bootpack section and the two teams finished one after another. Sari (who is thankfully feeling much better) and Mona finished the day in 6th place, moving them up to 7th overall. Nina and Linsay are just two minutes behind them in 8th place.
Tomorrow is a short(er) day with just 5,700 feet of climbing. Then, we’re all loading up and heading to Geneva where everyone will catch flights back home. I don’t think I’ll have time to post, but I don’t think there’ll be much change in the overall standings. The Pierra Menta has been an unbelievable experience for all of us and everyone is already plotting their return next year. Thanks for reading and your support!
The Desert Trek. All photos courtesy Mike Bitton.
Quick update on the race.
After 20 hours of trekking through the Arabian Desert, the top five teams all finished the stage together early yesterday morning. It sounds like Team Nike, Desert Islands, Team NZ, Wilsa Helly Hansen and Outdry/Vibram all raced through the night together, with Nike’s Chris Forne navigating for the whole group. Apparently it was really difficult for any team to truly break away in the desert dunes. More updates on the race website and CheckpointZero.com.
Team Nike resting in the shade of a Jeep on yesterday's trek.
Sari dumping the sand from her shoes. The team wore cycling time trial booties to try and keep the sand out.
With their strong effort on the trek, Team Nike has moved all the way from 10th into 5th place overall. There are 26 minutes separating Nike from both the third and fourth place teams. Leaderboard here. Tomorrow morning (tonight for us) the teams will start the final stage of the race with a 12km mountain bike into the mountains of Jebel Hafit, followed by 14km of rock scrambling and rope work and ending with a 27km bike sprint back through the streets of Abu Dhabi to the finish line.
I got a text from Mike Kloser this morning and he said that Chris has struggled a bit in the kayak but raced strong again on the trek. Sari and Micheal are hanging tough. They’re disappointed with their current standing but have not given up.
It will incredibly difficult for Nike to make up 26 minutes on this last stage, but the team was really fast on the ropes last year and I know they’ll be giving it their all to finish on the podium.
Thanks for your support! I’ll post one final update tomorrow morning.
Forne about to fumble the paddle. Photo courtesy Mike Bitton
It’s pretty tough sitting thousands of miles away in front of a computer, wondering what’s happening in the race when your team is moving slower than they should.
Is someone hurt? Sick? Did they take a wrong turn? Was there an equipment failure?
Turns out, today’s somewhat disappointing 6th place finish in the prologue was due to a broken boat, followed immediately by a lost paddle.
Read the full account from Mike Bitton on CheckpointZero.com here, but essentially Team Nike lost 5-8 minutes in today’s stage when the rudder on Chris and Sari’s kayak broke and then Chris lost his paddle while trying to fix it. Sari had to turn the boat around all by herself to go and retrieve it.
Six minutes in a six day race isn’t that big a deal, so hopefully they can make up the time no problem.