Hellas Rally Day 3 ended with riders still coming into the bivouac past nine PM. Today, there were two special stages totaling over 300km of rough mountain terrain, and riders are already withdrawing or changing to the Adventure Raid class where the tracks are easier and there’s no roadbook. More broken bikes, quads, and SSV’s, more injured riders, and more fatigue: the going is getting tough, and the rally is now really kicking off.
The top three riders as of today are Leonardo Tonelli on a Husquevarna 501, Matteo Cura on a Husky 501, and Milan Engel on a KTM 450. My personal heroes Andrew Hoolihan, Ionut Florea, Achinoam Harel, and Stephanie Rowe are still going strong, and I hope we all make it through tomorrow – an especially grueling day for rally riders including over 400 km of the special stage and a treacherous river crossing.
Me, I ended up last again. The first special stage had the tracks carving into the mountains. Forest tracks, some mud and sand, loose rocks, and deep hard ruts felt somewhat familiar, perhaps a little like riding in Colorado’s San Juans. My roadbook was spot on, despite some last minute changes the night before.
I have a cold and my right leg is already covered in bruises, but I was feeling pretty good today, hoping to make it all the way to the finish line after special stage two. Lucy ended up in a ditch once, and I was dealing with some wrist pain, but all in all, the day started off great. The scenery was once again stunning, and I tried pushing myself forward best as I could, speeding up as much as Lucy could muster on the faster sections.
But it just wasn’t enough. With a late 12pm start, I was late to finish the first special stage, and once I rolled onto the liaison section, a rally staff truck was waiting for me. “You’re over your time limit. Follow me back to the bivouac”, the driver said. After sharing my energy bars with the pilots of a broken down SSV – the right front wheel had been ripped off – I got back into the saddle and followed the rally truck back. It felt like a defeat, but because I am in the Hellas Lite class, I am still allowed to start tomorrow, albeit with a massive time penalty. Thankfully, all of us in Lite are getting an earlier start at 9.40 am, and our special stage tomorrow is just 150 kilometers. I’m determined to finish that stage come hell or high water, and who knows, I might just make it to Day 7.