It's the night before launch of the 2014 Ice Run, and rather like the night before Christmas, people are finding it hard to sleep. The teams have had a jam-packed weekend of fun and games, and some more serious stuff to keep them suitably awed at the task in hand.
Most teams arrived on Friday and have been ushered around Irbit like visiting dignitaries ever since. As the home of the Ural Motorcycle (this is the town where the bikes have been manufactured since their inception during WW2, and the main plank of the local economy), anyone here to celebrate the Ural is going to be celebrated in return. The teams have taken in the Ural factory and Museum, learning about the bikes' mighty provenance and remarkable history. Hopefully this new-found reverence will spare the bikes a kicking when they chew through yet another set of spark plugs....probably not.
Here's a gallery covering some of the 'helmet off' fun we have had in Irbit over the weekend.
Meanwhile there has been the slightly more serious business of learning to ride a Ural, which is really a category of vehicle all its own; not a bike, not an ordinary three-wheeler. And before you start to ride it, there's a magical process of getting it started to contend with too, of course.
Happily for our teams the bikes are in great shape after some serious re-conditioning post-2013 Ice Run, and all had had a thorough warm up in the week leading up to the launch. All teams were quickly running their engines and having a ride round the block with Olly as a sidecar passenger, and then in their teams.
People's main comments post ride were how much fun they are to ride, and how different to handle thanks to the sidecar and the ice and snow.
Having given them a bit of confidence it was time to blow it all sky high again with the Q&A on Saturday night, covering all manner of possible (that is to say, inevitable) mishap on the adventure; bike related, cold-related, Russian police-related...there's no shortage of hazard (that is to say, fun and adventure) up for grabs.
Finally, on Sunday afternoon we decamped to the local motocross track to give teams a flavour of riding on deep snow and undulation. This was an eye-opener, and for almost everyone, a lung-burner too, as there was a fair amount of getting off and pushing, or even lifting the bikes out of snow banks and up and over the jumps. Some shots in the gallery below. Despite being absolutely knackered at the end of it, and rather concerned that they had done about 3kms, vs. 2000kms kicking off in the morning, everyone had huge grins at the end of the session and a much clearer idea of what they could do with their noble steeds.
So that's that. All teams ready to roll; tomorrow we will gather on the town square and see them off in style. Where they head out of Irbit is where their adventure begins, and you'll have to keep an eye on the Live Tracking to see where the winds of adventure take them. North, with any luck. We finished the evening with a sobering, invigorating banya. Sadly there is far too much knob on show (Olly insisting on a mankini again, plus Germans - very different approach to communal changing) to share any of the photos from this episode, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that the sauna was roasting, the snow angels were eye-watering, and the ice-diving was more than invigorating. Here's Kabir's snow angel. The face says it all really.
Check back for a launch report, and the teams' own updates as the adventure unfolds up here in the frozen north.
Ice Run Chief