And they’re off! As the riders woke early this Sunday morning they were all aware of the deﬁnite feeling of nervous anticipation hanging over the Start Line Urtuu (Horse Station). Would all thirty riders get across the start line? That would be a ﬁrst in Mongol Derby history. Who would lead after the ﬁrst 40km leg to Urtuu 1? What tactics should they employ – is this a race for the tortoise or for the Duracell hare?
There had already been a casualty the night before – a young rider, inspired by the locally brewed Chiggis Khan vodka, decided to pit himself against one of the Mongolian drivers (the driver of Chris & Deb’s vehicle as it happens) in a traditional Mongolian wrestling match. It was over before it started – within seconds the rider had been planted ﬁrmly and unceremoniously onto the point of his shoulder, resulting in an impressive deformity of his acromio clavicular joint.
After an assessment by Chris, who felt that there were no clinical signs of a fracture to the clavicle / collar bone, and a discussion with the rider, it was decided that he should remain at the Start Urtuu, broad-arm sling immobilise the shoulder, and start pain-killers. At a review on Sunday morning the rider was determined to start the race, and it was felt that given the nature of the injury, there were no medical reasons that he should not cross the start line with the rest of the ﬁeld.
At the start line – two ﬂags planted in the ground in the wide expanse of the steppe – the mounted riders circled in 30 degree heat whilst receiving a blessing from a traditionally attired Mongolian Buddhist monk. The heat proved too much for one rider, and he fell from his horse (sustaining no injuries) before the start of the race – this necessitated the medical team to evacuate him from the centre of a swirling mass of semi-wild Mongolian horses, each of whom were raring to race.
Needless to say this was a rapid evacuation – however this didn’t stop the Lead Vet, Harry, sustaining a nasty kick from one of these beasts. We moved the casualty into the shade (no easy feat in this tree-less landscape) – his racing heart and low blood pressure made the diagnosis of dehydration relatively straightforward, and James Hubbard – operating in full paramedic mode – quickly inserted a large cannula and started intravenous ﬂuids.
Within the hour he was back on his feet, feeling considerably better, and crossed the line an hour after the others had raced off into the distance. All riders across the line, and (mostly) in one piece!
A special mention to Paddy Wood, an ex-professional jockey, and one of the riders in this year’s Mongol Derby, who honoured his agreement to ride with today’s casualty, and waited for him to recover at the start line, rather than race across it with the others. A true gent. The remainder of the day was spent speeding around the Mongolian steppe faster than the speed-of-a-thousand-speedy-things – our driver, Baska, has little time for dawdling!
His enthusiasm meant that we sped ahead of the ﬁeld to the point at which he had to be asked to turn around and go back a bit – not much point in increasing the response time to SOS calls unnecessarily. We hammered around for most of the day, ending up at Urtuu 2, where this entry ﬁnds me sat in a cosy tent, having enjoyed this evenings fare of indeterminate (though likely mutton) stew. All riders safe and accounted for, with only one ‘help’ call today from some very hot riders who were desperate for a water re-supply. Two riders are wild camping tonight on the steppe, with the majority of the others hunkered down at Urtuu 2.
Early start to be ready to cover riders who can start racing from 07h00.