The event centre was in a hollow off the side of the Te Mata Peak road and it was very cold. However, the climb up the road to the start was enough to warm everyone up. Although the M40s were the first to start, by the time I got going the ten or so runners before me had already beaten an elephant track down through the long grass to the first control. From 2 to 3 I chose to descend to the track at the bottom of the cliff and promptly climbed back up the wrong side ot the forested stream, finding 4 before I found 3. By the time I reached the fifth control I was already in a pack of five or six runners, worryingly it also contained Brent who had started a minute after me. I hesitated a minute before following the pack back up past the second control for the road run down to 6 but it was obviously the correct route choice so I tagged along. From 6 we all dropped down to the road to the north west of the control but reading my map on the way down I could see that back to the road to the north east and around would have been quicker and I berated myself for not noticing earlier. By the time we all found control 7 our group was up to eight strong having picked up both Dwayne, who had had a horror time finding it, and John who motored onto the group from behind and soon motored away off the front. A steep climb back up through 9 returned us to control 10 (acting as a pivot along with 6) and I was able to leave the group at this point to try out my theory about the road. It was gratifying to see them all still struggling down the hillside as I ran past and, after a quick visit to pick up control 11, I was on my own as I left the road headed to 12. Of course, complacency had set in and as I ran up to the control I was horrified to see it was 13 and not 12. Luckily, I was far enough ahead of the pack to retreat to 12 and return to 13 before they ran into view but then I mucked up 14 as well, failing to notice the obvious gully at the side of the track and having to circle around and approach the control from above. The pack got ahead of me at this point but were all milling around in the general direction of 15, having been confused by the absence of a fence, when I caught up with them again. From there it was a fast run down the road to the finish from where we could take stock of who had done what.
Unsurprisingly, John had won the stage taking five minutes out of the rest of us. Brent had come second about 30 seconds ahead of me with Hugh a further 30 seconds back but Rob had had a horror run finishing an extra couple of minutes down but, sadly, missing control 8 completely in the process so mispunching (while leading the grade) and being out of contention for the weekend. This left me in third place overall, 2 minutes 15 seconds down on Brent in second place and 2 minutes 30 seconds up on Hugh. These times were unlikely to be threatened in the last stage this afternoon. Jonty was delighted to discover that he had beaten me by over three minutes: Jonty 3 Steve 2.