Stage 2 : 04/04/2011 - Press release n°5

A race with the wind in its sails

26 years after its first edition, the Sultan MARATHON DES SABLES is still on a roll. Or still has the wind in its sails, as some have it. And the phrase has never been so adequate as in the second leg, between Kourci Dial Zaid and Jebel El Mraïer.

Last night, the 843 competitors had already anticipated that, due to the weather conditions rather than the terrain, what was to come wouldn’t exactly be a breeze. And they were right! Early this morning, big gushes of wind were sweeping through the bivouac, running up to 30km p.h., with the sand lashing the runners’ legs (legs that had already endured enough the day before…) As usual, such difficult conditions didn’t prevent the head of the race from setting off at full speed. On the men’s side, a quartet of runners called the tune: Mustapha Aït Amar (D6-MAR), Salameh Al Aqra (D236-JOR), Mohamad Ahansal (D1-MAR) and Rachid El Morabity (D4-MAR). At km 22, those four were still running neck and neck, until Ahansal (D1-MAR) and El Morabity (D4-MAR) managed to wear out Aït Amar shortly before CP 3 (km31). In the last 7 kilometres, El Morabity slowed down a fraction, letting his trainer Mohamad Ahansal (D1-MAR) fly off to a new leg victory. But he had to spring for it, with Al Aqra (D236-JOR) crossing the finish line only four seconds behind him.

Huge suspense with the women

The gap was wider with the women: Laurence Klein (D280-FRA) got the better of Emma Roca (D107-ESP) by four minutes. Despite her victory, the French runner was being picky: “it’s great to have won but I could have done better. Towards the end, I got a bit lost in the dunes. As if I hadn’t had my fill of dunes yesterday! I could have gained a minute ou two.” Just 47 seconds apart in the general ranking, the two competitors have started a very promising duel. There’s still a long way to go before reaching Tazzarine, final destination of the 26th Sultan MARATHON DES SABLES, but Monica Aguilera (D505-ESP), 40 minutes behind, seems to have lost any chance of victory. Tomorrow, the 38km long 3rd leg should give a clearer idea of the strength of the various parties.
There will be a lot of sand patches and rocky plateaux, and the runners might not be overjoyed to find more than 10km of dunes in the second half of the leg. A prospect that Yves Herrault (D309-FRA) didn’t seem to relish, as he made clear just after crossing the finish line today: “last year, for my 1st Sultan MARATHON DES SABLES, we got less dunes and the kilometers built up slowly. This time, it’s long and hard from the start. The sand’s tough on the tendons. We’ll see tomorrow (April the 5th) how things are, but damage is to be expected. After two days, the bodies are getting tired”