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All runners are grey at night

11 april - Stage 4 day 2

Last night, hundreds of competitors strode across the desert to join the finish line of the Long Stage of the 34th MARATHON DES SABLES. Long before them, Rachid EL MORABITY (Morocco) and Ragna DEBATS (Netherlands) almost secured their final victory by winning this 76.3-km stage.

THE STAGE OF THE DAY: STAGE 4 'THE LONG STAGE' – Day 2

Distance: 76.3 km

Start time: 8:15 AM for the pack; 11:15 AM for the 50 male and 5 female leaders

Max. time: 31 hours

Description: a long stage with less kilometres than in the last years, but more difficult, with two jebels to cross, twenty kilometres of sandy sections, the White Lake, the crossing of the village of Jdaid, and a course passing at the foot of the beautiful Ba Hallou ruins.

768 competitors on the start line

Temperature at 12:00 PM GMT: 33.2°C

Humidity level at 12 PM GMT: 13.1%

If the fastest runners were able to complete the Long Stage (76.3 km) of the 34th MARATHON DES SABLES before sunset, over 95% of competitors had to turn their head torch on for a few hours, or the entire night, on a rather difficult course: "The Long Stage was much more difficult and less flat that last year," said Christophe LE BOULANGER (D789-FRA). All the more since when surprises occur: "We were coming close to the finish line, and on the stony plateau, I didn't spot a snake in time. I'm not a specialist, but it was large and colourful enough to make me wary. I leaped like a mountain goat; it was such a fright!

The key concern of MDS participants: blisters. Joffrey BELLOY (D782-FRA) explains: "My feet are in pitiful condition, so I walked the entire stage, going from one CP to the next while trying to preserve my feet." But sometimes, it's not enough: though the MDS is free-pace event, it imposes a minimum speed of approximately 3 km/h Thus, Arnaud GUILLEVIC (D170-FRA), handicapped by his bruised feet, couldn't make it on time to the first checkpoint: "I had pain levels that I'd never experienced before."

During the night, moments of euphoria follow difficult times. Staying motivated and keeping a clear mind is essential: "At some point in the dunes, I had a really tough time, other competitors were overtaking me, I couldn't follow them," reveals Gloria NASR (D077-FRA). But eventually, she found a travel buddy with whom she finished the stage. At the successive checkpoints, volunteers bend over backwards to assist competitors. Jean-Mi, at CP5, explains: "We first check that they're doing good, we verify their equipment, and if need be, we send them to the Docs." And sometimes, a wide-eyed competitor feels the need to talk. Zaia BRIKI (D691-FRA) lived a strange moment when the sandstorm started: "All of a sudden, it began – the wind, the sand... It was really impressive. Patrick BAUER was there, so I challenged him to make it stop. He shouted 'Go away, storm!' and the storm vanished." Reality, waking dream, hallucinations...everything is intertwined during the night of the Long Stage of the 34th MDS. All runners are grey at night…

The Long Stage of the MARATHON DES SABLES is always a special one, with its staged start: the bulk of the pack early in the morning, and three hours later, the 50 male and 5 female leaders. The challenge for the fastest competitors of the first wave is to reach the finish line before the first Top runners… And yesterday evening, Quentin GAUDILLIERE (D110-FRA) had his moment of glory: "It's the first time I come to the desert. I'm surprised by all that is happening here, and I'm coping better than I had imagined. It's beautiful, I'm running to discover the country, be with my friends, and because it's an extraordinary adventure. And if in addition, there are special moments like this one, I say Yes!"

The three last competitors, from Hong Kong, crossed the finish line at 1:15 PM. Exhausted, yet happy to be cheered by the entire bivouac, they finished this Long Stage in a beautiful way. Only 11 competitors had to withdraw yesterday or today, raising the total number of drop outs to 26 – a ridiculously low number with respect to the 783 participants.

TOP FEMALE RUNNERS: UNTOUCHABLE RAGNA

Untouchable: Ragna DEBATS (D819-NED) didn't give ground yesterday during the Long Stage of the 34thMARATHON DES SABLES – she even increased her lead. Nevertheless, things are not easy for the Dutch runner living in Spain: for the past three days, she's been suffering from back chafing and had to adopt antalgic positions. The unfortunate consequence is that she is suffering from abdominal pain due to the unusual contractions of her body... For her first MDS participation, the Trail World Champion is painfully discovering the specificities of this unparalleled event.

Radiant Aziza RAJI (D630-MAR) perfectly managed the Long Stage yesterday. She is now more than 35 minutes ahead of last year's winner Brit Gemma GAME (D002-GBR).

Except for a hard blow, the title should go to Ragna DEBATS, but the rest of the podium is still uncertain.

TOP MALE RUNNERS: THE REIGNING BROTHERS

Same strategy and same consequences: Rachid EL MORABITY (D001-MAR) controlled the race as usual: "I started slowly, then I tried to accelerate and make a difference. Tomorrow, we have 42 km left, so I will start slowly and try to follow my chasers until the end, because my lead is enough to win the race."

His younger brother Mohamed (D008-MAR) finishes just after him, while Italian Antonio ALONGI (D719-ITA) is gaining ground again, finishing the stage in third place.

The first French runner, Mérile ROBERT (D003-FRA), is happy with his stage: "I started with all the Moroccans, at their quiet pace for the first part of the stage, until K45-50. Then, they accelerated... But I managed to keep my steady pace and felt good throughout the day. Training has paid off."

Rachid and Mohamed EL MORABITY should confirm their places tomorrow, but the rest of the podium can still change.

STAGE 4 RANKINGS

Women's Top 5*

RANK

BIB

RUNNER

TEAM

NAT.

TIME

1

819

Ragna DEBATS

 

NED

09:13:31

2

630

Aziza RAJI

 

MAR

09:37:16

3

2

Gemma GAME

 

GBR

09:39:52

4

656

Monica GUILERA SALA

 

ESP

11:16:51

5

611

Lauren WOODWISS

 

GBR

11:22:25

Men's Top 5*

RANK

BIB

RUNNER

TEAM

NAT.

TIME

1

1

Rachid EL MORABITY

MAROC TGCC TEAM

MAR

07:13:10

2

8

Mohamed EL MORABITY

MAROC TGCC TEAM

MAR

07:16:13

3

719

Antonio ALONGI

 

ITA

07:22:07

4

791

Abdelaziz BAGHAZZA

 

MAR

07:23:17

5

3

Mérile ROBERT

 

FRA

07:35:20

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 4                               

Women's Top 5*

RANK

BIB

RUNNER

TEAM

NAT.

TOTAL TIME

1

819

Ragna DEBATS

TERRESDELEBRE/CADEMONTANA

NED

18:46:11

2

630

Aziza RAJI

 

MAR

20:54:23

3

2

Gemma GAME

 

GBR

21:29:11

4

611

Lauren WOODWISS

 

GBR

23:40:45

5

656

Monica GUILERA SALA

FISIOTERAPIA EL CENTRE

ESP

24:22:12

Men's Top 5*

RANK

BIB

RUNNER

TEAM

NAT.

TOTAL TIME

1

1

Rachid EL MORABITY

MAROC TGCC TEAM

MAR

15:23:31

2

8

Mohamed EL MORABITY

MAROC TGCC TEAM

MAR

15:29:12

3

791

Abdelaziz BAGHAZZA

 

MAR

16:08:27

4

719

Antonio ALONGI

 

ITA

16:09:02

5

7

Abdelkader EL MOUAZIZ

MAROC TGCC TEAM

MAR

16:13:25

Teams' TOP 5

MAROC TGCC TEAM              16:07:55
1 - Rachid EL MORABITY
2 - Aziz EL AKAD
3 - Abdelkader EL MOUAZIZ
4 - Mohamed EL MORABITY

TERRESDELEBRE/CADEMONTANA       18:40:15
1 - Alejandro FRAGUELA BREIJO
2 - Ragna DEBATS --
3 - Albert GINE CID

TERDAV 1 / CENTRAKOR        19:16:18
1 - Merile ROBERT
2 - Julien CHORIER
3 - Damien DOUVRY
4 - Lhoucine AKHDAR

TERRES D'AVENTURE 2    22:07:54
1 - Thomas CALLENS
2 - Moktar LAHCEN
3 - Mohamed FARAJ
4 - Laurence KLEIN –

FISIOTERAPIA EL CENTRE       24:36:07
1 - Xavier ESCRIBA VIVO
2 - Monica GUILERA SALA --
3 - Joan TORRENTS MASQUE
4 - Rafael BERTOMEU CARRASCOSA

 

*Provisional rankings

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