The winner of the Mongol Derby is the first rider to cross the finish line. The riders will be placed in the order that they cross the line, and equal placings are possible, so riders coming in together will be placed together.
All time penalties are settled up before riders approach the finish, so you will know where you stand before they making your final assault. The last Penalty Urtuu will be around Urtuu 20, so that riders who suddenly jump up or down the order have a chance to adjust their racing strategy accordingly. Penalties incurred after Urtuu 20 will be sat out in real time.
There is one fly in the ointment which could change the result on the finish line, and that is a penalty meted out on the line. The only real candidate for this is a veterinary penalty. For the final leg, we allow the riders 60 minutes for the horse's heart rates to return to 56bpm, rather than the standard 30. This allows the riders more leeway so they can have a blimmin' good gallop on the final leg and cross the finish line in the style they always envisaged- racing!
We at Adventurists Towers are not hugely interested in the time intervals between riders, particularly towards the back of the field. Enforcing a penalty on the back markers will put their ability to finish the race in jeopardy, so from 2015 we will not enforce penalties for the trailing groups as soon as the leaders are through the last Penalty Urtuu. Penalties bite up in the thick of the action, but to be 6 hours behind will feel very much the same as being 8 hours behind, and so we will just get these riders across the finish line and classify them as finishers rather than give them exact placings. There's more about this in The Penalty System.
There are lots of other things which we could adjust for, which affect where people finish. We choose not to do this, mainly because this is an adventure not a scientific experiment. If you want to be micro-managed and stewarded, enter a triathlon. Some examples below:
- Rider order affecting horse selection. There is a school of thought that the riders up front get to pick the best horses and their advantage gets compounded. Picking a horse after someone who you are 'officially' in front of in the race might make you feel hard done by, for example if they are carrying penalties but currently ahead of you. In truth horse selection is far more randomised than this, most riders couldn't pick the 'best' horses in the line-up by sight anyway, and riders at the rear of the field frequently record faster times than the leaders. It's much less significant than riders might expect.
- Delays at horse stations. Some days the horses are easier to catch than others. The herders are up at sparrow's fart to try and herd the Derby horses and have them on the line ready for the riders in the mornings, but it's conceivable that at 7am, you could still be a steed short of a Derby team. This is a shame but it affects everyone more or less equally and is also part and parcel of riding wild horses in Mongolia. We could keep them all tied up on the line for the entire event period but you wouldn't go very fast on a horse that had had no grass. There are no time 'credits' for late starts.
- Time spent de-camping if you can't get into a ger. We don't guarantee anyone a bed for the night, or floor space in the gers. If you ride in and the ger is already full to bursting, no-one is going to adjudicate who stays, who goes. All very Lord of the Flies. If you don't sleep very well, worse luck.
- Emergency race holds. There may be cases where there is a medical emergency on the course, both medical crews are tied up, and Field and UB HQ decide to suspend the race until cover can be resumed. To do this, all crews are informed to hold riders at the urtuus until further notice. Some riders will be between urtuus, sweetly oblivious to this instruction, and they may come in several hours after the 'Hold' call was announced to crews. In fact, the race may be back underway by the time they even arrive at the next urtuu. In these cases the urtuu teams calculate how long riders should be held for to even things up again. Given that it can take up to an hour for a message to get all the way down the line to all crews, not all riders may be held for the same time. Also, given that no-one will be able to say when the race will be underway again, some riders may take a nap/do their washing/start an epic poker tournament, and not be in a position to ride on again when crews get the go-ahead. In short, race holds introduce a degree of unfairness, which riders will have to swallow.