Persistent rain ensured a tough and very testing opening day in the mountains for competitors at Brazil's Minas Rider, the first stop of the Hard Enduro World Series. With temperatures dropping and rain clouds lingering in the mountains around Belo Horizonte, it was a cold and wet start to the day as the world's best hard enduro riders left the start line at 7am.
Due to his third placed prologue result, hard enduro rally rookie Cody Webb was the first rider to start. Three minutes later Graham Jarvis got his day underway, and three minutes later prologue winner Alfredo Gómez rolled off the start line in anger.
Immediately it was clear that Jarvis was intent on getting down to business. Eating up the deficit to Webb, he cleared Checkpoint 2 in the lead. With Webb latching onto the back of Jarvis, the duo rode closely together until the mandatory service point.
Jarvis got back out in front after the stop, and, putting the hammer down, he gapped Webb by five minutes during the following three checkpoints. But with riders facing a final sting in the tail, Webb fought back to draw level and then incredibly pass Jarvis before the finish.
On corrected time however the day's win and overall lead went to Jarvis. "It's been a pretty good today," said Jarvis. "It's been a hard start to the week, but I think I've won and also got the overall lead, which is exactly how I hoped things would go.
"The rain hasn't helped conditions and the heavy sections just kept coming and coming in the afternoon. In the last section I had the lead over Cody, but then he passed me before the finish line. But on corrected time the overall lead should be mine. There's still a long way to go and the guys are riding really well – we're in for a close race."
With his late fight back to Jarvis, Webb dug deep to produce one of the surprise performances of the day, indicating that despite his lack of navigation experience he's got his sights set on victory.
"Starting first, I knew Graham and Alfredo were pushing hard to chase me down so I had to ride hard to react," said Webb. "Graham caught me and we rode together a lot before service. Towards the end I managed to catch and pass him on the final section. It's been good. I needed to match their pace if I want to be in with a shot of the podium, and I managed to do that today."
For defending Minas Riders champ Gómez, day one was a real tester. Injuring his shoulder, he struggled to keep pace with the leading duo and had to muster all his strength to just see the day through.
"It's not been the best of days for me," admitted Gómez. "I just made so many mistakes and crashed way too many times. A few weeks ago in training I hurt my shoulder, and then today I hurt it again so most of the day was a tough struggle. When I arrived to a hard section I couldn't push right and the mistakes came. All I can do is just shake it off and try again tomorrow."
Alfredo isn't the only Gómez racing Minas Riders. This year's he's joined by his sister Sandra in Brazil, as she bids to become the first ever female Gold class finisher of a hard enduro rally.
"It's my first time competing in the Gold class and I know how hard it is," she confirmed. "My only goal is to finish the race and I think it will be a great learning experience for me.
"Alfredo is more like a team-mate than a rival for me. I'm lucky to have him beside me. He helps me a lot, gives me tips and plays the big brother because he wants me to be at a high level in the future. There are few girls in the sport so I hope that my presence here will help bring more women to hard enduro."