An exciting and emotional last day in the sand
MARATHON OULAD DRISS - FOUM-ZGUID
The Gazelles set their alarms for 6 a.m. on this second marathon day. There is no time to waste, they need to get an early start, setting their sights on CP5X and the Chegaga dunes. For this last day of competition, the Gazelles are ready to give it their all. They can’t let go of the pressure if they want to keep their position or move up the ranking. Laure and Sophie of Team 125 (Sophie SOLON-BREUSSE / Laure DE LA JONQUIERE)and Mylène and Marie-Line of Team 234 (Marie-Line REY / Mylène LECIEUX) are in fine form for the last day, determined to tackle the dunes early in the morning before they soften in the heat. Headings are taken, the two teams set off… but Team 125 misjudges an incline and gets stuck. They start the morning with their hands in the sand.
Like the day before, teams can follow each other in the dunes. At the foot of a dune, we catch up with Régine and Tania of Team 216 (Tania LIO / Régine ZBINDEN), leaders in the rankings, who are riding with third-place team Julie and Sophie 143 (Julie KOHLMANN / Sophie FABRI). The two navigators sit down on the crest of a dune to plot their points. They are so focused that there is not a sound to be heard. The leaders can’t afford to waste a single metre today. But the Gazelles indulge in a little humour: “According to my triangulation, we’re at the CP”, jokes Régine. After placing their points, the Gazelles start again. “I don’t feel like it anymore; I was fine, sitting on my dune”, laughs Tania.
They soon get back out of their vehicles, as Team 216 gets stuck in the sand. With three and six rallies to their names, respectively, Tania and Régine are clearly used to the drill. They quickly get out their straps to be pulled out by their friends of Team 143. After nine days of rally, some Gazelles prefer not to take any risks and change their strategy halfway through. On reaching CP5X, in the middle of the magnificent Chegaga dunes, the widest and wildest field of dunes in Morocco, Teams 102, 217 and 247 decide to change routes.
Pride in the eyes of the Gazelles
Further on, Gazelles discuss strategy before setting out. Anne of Team 206 (Anne ROUSTIT / Nelly BELOTTI)encourages the others: “When we get to CP6, if we realize it’s too difficult, we’ll skip CP7 and get out of Chegaga. We’re not going to go get hurt; we’re here to enjoy ourselves as well. That’s what happened in Merzouga so we want to try again”. “We can do this, let’s drink some water and let’s go”, confirms Ania of Team 208 (Ania DUFLOS / Blandine COUSIN). “Once a Gazelle, always a Gazelle”, shout Teams 170, 206, 208 and 246, like a war cry.
At the last checkpoint of this final leg, the Gazelles can hardly believe it. Nina and Émilie of Team 177 (Emilie LOGET / Nina LEBELLENGER) assess their first rally: “Being alone in the desert can be frightening because it’s the kind of thing that never happens in real life”, says Nina. “At first, we weren’t able to read the maps and the terrain but as time went on, we got better at navigating. We’re much more comfortable now, we learned from our mistakes”, adds Émilie, who is now planning to do the GAM with her husband. To reach the last bivouac in Foum Zguid, the teams get to enjoy spectacular regs bordered by immense mountains, like something out of a classic western movie.
The finish line is abuzz with emotions and honking horns. Many organizers are waiting for the teams to applaud then after nine days of intense competition. Marina hugs the Gazelles. Nadjette and Sophie of Team 509 (Sophie QUERO / Nadjette GUIDOUM)jump into each other’s arms. “We had such a great time! We made it to the end, and so did our car”, exclaim the Gazelles, their eyes shining with pride. “Congratulations, you did it!” cries Élodie, team relations officer, as she gives each one a “finisher” bracelet. “It was hard, but we were able to do it. We’re very proud of ourselves”, says Melissa of Team 236 (Mathilde NOURRY / Melissa BERT)before starting to cry, followed by her teammate Mathilde. After nine days of competition, the pressure is off.
Solidarity is as present as ever at the finish line. Charlotte and Hélène of Team 238 (Hélène GRAND'EURY / Charlotte ZUCCONI)applaud the teams and congratulate them all, one after the other. Despite their vehicle being immobilized, Séverine and Angelika of Team 133 (Séverine DUHAMEL / Angelika OLIVIER)cross the finish line, towed by a mechanical assistance vehicle. Julie and Karine of Team 217 (Julie LAMBOLEY / Karine LUONG)get out their Basque flag. There is celebration in the air!