The tradition marathon stage 42.2 km of the MDS, on a very hilly terrain (total height difference of 1,100 metres), with a sandy section to start with and harder ground thereafter. Spectacular landscapes along the coastline, especially the vertiginous cliffs after CP2. A Bivouac #5 located in the middle of an immense sandy plain circled by hills and dunes: welcome to Mars!
IMPRESSIONS FROM THE BIVOUAC
After the rest day yesterday and before the final stage tomorrow, competitors become more talkative. "Only one lyophilised supper and breakfast to go, and it's over!" are the words most often heard on Bivouac #5. "What I'm missing the most is wine...I haven't yet found a good dehydrated one yet," retorts another competitor. Food is THE recurring discussion topic around the bonfires tonight.
Francesco RIGODANZA (D357-ITA)
"Every day is better than the previous one!"
Philippe VERDIER (D113-FRA)
"Today's stage along the ocean was sublime again, with the desert, the deep blue of the Pacific, the wind and the waves: a really really really beautiful eyeful. The course was stunning – I wasn't imagining something like this: pristine desert as far as the eye could see; nothing, nobody, no garbage, no pollution."
THE TOP ATHLETES' RACE: CHANGES IN THE MEN'S CATEGORY
At the MDS, the marathon stage (Stage 5) is always closely fought, since it's the last chance to reach the seats of honour. For the first place, the two leaders Rachid EL MORABITY (D001-MAR) and Nathalie MAUCLAIR (D114-FRA) increased their lead and are unreachable. Nathalie found this stage hard but stayed focused: "The boys took a fast start. I knew it was going to be difficult, so I held on tight and thought about positive things while watching the birds fly – with the wind blowing in my back, I was almost flying like them."
For the rest of the women's podium, the die seems cast as the gaps are huge: Mélanie ROUSSET (D365-FRA) is more than 3 hours behind Nathalie and almost three hours ahead of Rocío CARRIÓN (D215-PER). And the two Peruvians who complete the Top 5 – Aydee SOTO QUISPE (D340-PER) and Renee ROMERO SAYRITUPAC (D395-PER) – are 1 hour and 30 min behind their closest contestant, respectively. These results confirm the pre-race impressions and turn the spotlight on the courageous Peruvian competitors who dominate the Top 5.
In the men's category, following the penalty received by the Peruvian Remigio HUAMAN QUISPE (D003-PER) – see below – the podium was more open than ever at the start of this morning's stage. Everyone had studied the gaps and knew what he had to do to move up or avoid going down in the ranking. Erik CLAVERY (D111-FRA) got today's good deal thanks to a very fast race, which enabled him to pass his fellow countryman and friend Julien CHORIER (D111-FRA). The second competitor, Aldo RAMIREZ (D378-PER) is only 9 minutes ahead of Erik, but this latter is unlikely to be able to catch him up during tomorrow's short stage (19.6 km). "It's been a beautiful stage, with a rather favourable wind. I'm very satisfied. I ran on feels, like during the previous stages, without trying to monitor the gaps," Erik explains at the finish line. Gediminas GRINIUS (D236-LTU), fifth in the general classification, confirms that the stage shot off at top speed: "The leaders took a super-fast start – the speed was crazy!"
During a bag check at the arrival of Stage 4 (on the day before yesterday), Remigio HUAMAN QUISPE (D003-PER), then second in the general classification, could not show his compulsory minimum food supplies. He thus received a two-hour penalty, as stipulated in the regulations, relegating him to sixth place in the general classification. As a reminder, the regulations aim first and foremost to ensure the event's safety, then to guarantee sports equity. The compulsory equipment (food, sleeping bag, survival bag, signalling mirror, etc.) enables every competitor to cope with an emergency situation during the race, to live decently on the bivouac, and to eat during a week. Not having it in your bag during all the stages puts you at risk and distorts fairness between competitors by enabling the faulty one to carry less weight.