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Competitors contend with sand gazelles

posted on 14/12/2008: 1988 views

Competitors in the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge already knew they would have to cope with the rigours of the desert and its harsh terrain.

But the mountain biking section through the wildlife preserve on Sir Bani Yas Island, added to the race for its second year, presented a new and unexpected challenge.

After teams finished a 45.5km circuit around the island, stories abounded of encounters with the island's estimated 5,000 sand gazelles.

Andy Wilson, from the British team Sleepmonster, said his team came close to hitting a couple. "I didn't fancy hitting a gazelle. In Britain I hit a deer once at 30mph and I didn't fancy doing that here. These ones have horns.”

Members of Swiss team, ADCO Faszinatour came in bruised and bleeding, but had not fallen victim to a brush with wildlife, only a failed attempt to get a tow from a faster teammate.

Desert Islands finished the mountain biking leg within a few seconds of team Nike but five minutes ahead of the third placed group, Team New Zealand. Richard Ussher, the leader of Desert Islands, said that his team and the Nike team had helped each other to establish a lead on the rest of the pack.

"We decided to work together a bit and put as much of a gap as we could on the other teams,” he said.

This meant more time to rest before the 33km kayaking section from Sir Bani Yas Island to Kurkum Island, where the competitors spent last night to prepare for another 82km kayaking leg to the mainland today. "It's a good start and we're looking forward to being on the water,” Ussher said.

Apart from the top teams, others were suffering from the rigours of the race. Rachel Clough, a physiotherapist from New Zealand, only became involved in the race six weeks ago. "I'd heard about the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge earlier in the year when I treated a girl who'd done it last year,” she said.

"When they said they needed someone I stepped in. It's tough but it's awesome being here.” – The National


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