Aquarius 23, 2077, m249
The story of the day for the men's heat was simple: They dropped like flies.
This was the 4th day of racing for the men and it was apparent how worn down they had become early in the day. With the start point at the centre of Tithonium Chasma, the 200 km course across the canyon system into Candor Chaos presented unique challenges for the runners. Though appearing mostly smooth, the floor of the Chasma is mostly composed of pristine landslide material, making for an unpredictable running surface.
Segments of the course were too soft for blades. Racers were often required to dismount and run on foot using poles to keep balance. All of this extra effort compounding on the already weary pack.
By mid morning, Bavash Yalaran (Marineris) called it quits after 54 km.
Before lunch, Xue Feng Fu and Sam Kashmiri, both from San Olympus, tapped out at 56 km and 58 km respectively.
As the terrain shifted heading into Candor Chaos, Michael Pan (Europa) collapsed at 115 km. 2 km back, upon seeing Pan drop down, Paul Borroni (Novyimir) made the decision to end his race.
Jamal Carter (Columbia Hills), who started with a commanding lead for the first half, maintained a top 5 position through most of the day until an unlucky step caught a blade and his leg snapped as his body twisted around his fixed leg.
This opened up the opportunity for Owen Dubad (Marineris) to take the lead. Dubad did not let it go to waste. Pacing himself carefully against Samual Gates (Europa), Dubad was able to hang on to take the Stage.
Behind him, 9 more racers withdrew, calling it quits and conceding to Candor Chaos. In total, 15 racers did not finish, the largest single drop off in this year's competition. This leaves 23 runners for the final 2 stages.
"A lot of notable contenders went down today," said Garin Papaviny, former Pathfinder Champion, "Mehrad Shirani and Jamal Carter were favourites from bootcamp that I thought had a chance, but Pathfinder is merciless. Tomorrow we will see how the women fair against Chaos."
Panchehra (Europa), winner of stage 1, finished in 18th position. Crowd favourites El-Morad (Al'amal), Rafeeq Afzal (Al'amal), and Marshall Shannon (HDX) survive for Stage 4.