Ice Run 2016: The Report - Part 1

Last week we got the latest from the training. This week, they launched and we've got the freshest from the steppe. Over to Ice Run chief Katy Willings:

11th March,

The Ice Run proper begins.

After all the race preparation, training and anticipations it's good to finally get started. The teams take one last ride in (near) familiar circumstances over to Olkhon Island to buy them out of snickers and sporks, using this as an opportunity to check all cylinders are firing. Then they take to the ice.

The feeling of navigating for themselves, deciding how fast to go, when and where to stop is liberating. The omnipresent danger means your senses are working overtime too. The bikes are running superbly. Later we stop for tea and regroup with the teams. Everyone is running well and feeling pumped.

The first reminder the ice gives of its lethal potential is when Ala and Ephraim's team Tushonka hit a big crack, warping their wheel and bending the axle. Both riders are unscathed, but the axle and wheel are destroyed. When the spare wheel is put on, it wont even turn the axle is so distorted. 

The axle is knocked off with a blunt instrument, but the 'stump' can't be removed. Dima, the driver of the backup vehicle, then sets about mounting a new axle on the frame of the sidecar. It's misaligned and doesn't have a brake, but it works. The sidecar sits high and the balance is way off, but with Ala and Ephraim's bags distributed amongst the other teams and Ala riding pillion it works. Bush mechanics at their finest.

Progress slows, but Ala and Ephraim are unflappable. That night, everyone ends up camping bang in the middle of the lake; 7 Urals, the back-up team and cameraman Olly, who survived a crash in the same crack as team Tushonka.

In a howling storm tents are stoically erected and snow is melted to cook and drink. Conditions are brutal, but spirits are high. The teams seem shell-shocked, but joyful. Songs booze, gallows humour. 

One tent pole snaps in the cold. It's like losing a child. Repair job with electrical tape but it takes ages as our a hands are seized and the tape isn't sticky. Agony. Huge pride in surviving the night and keeping warm and upbeat.

12th March

The stove broke this morning. No food no tea, -30 outside and you have to pack up your warm place and handle all that cold metal and rough fabric again. It feels like you'd rather die. The bike starts within the first five kicks. It makes it all feel better. Great to get back on and ride away, truly make progress.

The next three hours ride to the fuel drop is amazing, bright sun, good speed. The teams have split up but periodically cross each-other through the day. Along the way team Tushonka get stuck in the ride-ups. Dima goes back to check on them. They are in good spirits, but have bust a bearing on the running repair.

The bearing is replaced and the wheel refitted and they're back on the road. Absolutely unsinkable. The delay has further spread the teams but it's likely we'll regroup at the end of the day.

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