Commentating for ESPN is a blast!Â We did a pre-show of 25 minutes, then went live to 102 countries from 1725 hrs.Â Lisa Wong presented it and I commentated with David Kaden, an ex-National Endurance Champion of USA.Â We had Technical Advisor and Chief Steward Derek “Zulu” Leibenberg and Endurance.Net editor Steph Teeter as guests.Â Once they were flagged off at 1730, the time seemed to fly. Before knew it, the lead batch of five riders were coming back in.Â Maybe it was because they were flying out on course.Â They came in with an average speed of 20 km/h, which means they were running around 27 or 28 km/h when you take into account they all made at least one water point and 1 crew point along the route.
First in and vetted was Maria Alvarez Ponton of Spain.Â The Uruguayans had pushed the pace all the way in the 1st loop but Sheik Hamdan of UAE was faster to vet out than World No 2 Pio Olascoaga Amaya of Uruguay.Â Qatar’s Al Marri checked in 4th while Sheik Ahmed was with the lead group in 5th.Â Best of the Malaysians is dato’ Awang running in 53rd position about 30 minutes behind the leaders.Â The team is looking like they are sticking to plan, all clocking in close to each other with Shu’aib in 55th, Tuanku Mizan in 57th, Faizal 59th and Rosdam 62nd.
As they went out on the 2nd loop and almighty thunderstorm broke over Lembah Bidong, inundating the track, the village and just about everyone here.Â The lighting shot out TV cameras, PC’s, and even struck the media lounge. Â Our ESPN studio fell victim to another shot later on, and we lost our editing capabilities too, so we took to shooting the hourly updates just from live footage, and we had to shoot from the ESPN HQ and equipment tent instead of the studio.
Meanwhile Al Marri of Qatar took over the lead after the 2nd phase, about a minute ahead of Alvarez Ponton (ESP).Â The two UAE Sheiks vetted out in 3rd and 4th. There are six UAE riders in the 12 twelve!Â The Uruguayans have dropped back a little, taking just a little longer to get their horses to the vet check han the first four.Â Dato’ Awang has stepped up his pace and moved up 20 placings to sit 22 mins behind the leaders in 37th place.Â He just ran the 2nd loop in an average speed of 17.22 km/h.Â The rest of the Malaysians still around the same placings. So far 27 horses have been vetted out so far, leaving a field of 100 still in it.
Maria Alvarez Ponton the first into the crewing area after the 3rd loop.Â Qatar’s Al Marri is just behind.Â Sultan Ahmed Sultan bin Sulayem is 3rd in and Argentinean Agustin Vita rides into 4th place.Â Bad news for Malaysia as Navidad is lame at the Vet Check and Dato’ Awang is disappointed again in his 5th World Endurance Championship.Â Â Other Malaysian individuals already vetted out are Dato’ Abdulah Taib (Gate 2), Yusri (Gate 2), and young Firdaus (Gate 1).
In the team standings UAE leads from Belgium and Spain.Â France has had one team member vetted out so they are down to three riders in their team but currently still hold 4th place.Â Then it is Bahrain, Spain and Portugal.Â Australia is in 7th.Â Malaysia is still in it, in 11th.
3:00 am Update:Â Spanish rider Maria Alvarez Ponton is still the individual leader.Â She has led almost all the way on Nobby.Â Qatari Abdulla Al Marri is still hanging in there, in 2nd, just 3 minutes behind.Â Argy Agustin Vita has moved up to 3rd, about 12 minutes off the leader. Sultan Ahmed bin Sultan Sulayem is the best of the UAE riders in 4th.Â UAE have 5 in the top 10 atfer the 4th phase.Â Rachel Jaumotte of Belgium is the big mover.Â She has moved up from 15th after the 1st phase to sit in 5th now.Â The leading pack has now gone out on the 23 km 5th phase. So far 43 horses are already out of the race.Â 84 competitors still left in it.Â UAE still leads the team standings, about 26 mins only ahead of Spain.Â France are 3rd, followed by Bahrain, Qatar, Belgium and Australia respectively.Â More news on that at the next update.
The lightning had blown out our editing capabilities so we’ve had to call whatever we had onscreen in our hourly updates, with no edited footage from the last hour.Â Finally we had a good break.Â Just when I went on air with the 4:00 am update, the leader Maria Alvarez Ponton came trotting in, completing phase 5.Â We had our cameras on her as the crew stripped the saddle off and got to work on pulsing down Nobby’s heartrate.Â Â She has kept up a relentless pace and the way her crew were working on her horse, she presented really quickly, even after completing 135 km.Â If she keeps up this pace she might even be on the last loop by the time we get back on air for the morning show from 6:30 am.