The winner of the Mongol Derby is the first rider to cross the finish line. The riders will be placed in the order that they cross the line, and equal placings are possible, so riders coming in together will be placed together. However, further back in the field this system is likely to break down. Rather than risk holding riders at urtuus for so long that they are timed out of the Derby, we suspend the penalty system for the rear field around day 5. So, for some riders there will be time to add at the end of the race, and the final placings will be adjusted for these time penalties. We will publish the exact finishing times, adjusted for penalties, one week after the event's conclusion, at the end of August 2018. For the leading 10 riders, and hopefully many more than that, all penalties will be sat in real time, and hence placings over the line are actual finishing placings.
2016 joint winners- William Comiskey, Marcia Hefker-Miles and Heidi Telstad. Photo- Richard Dunwoody
There is one fly in the ointment which could change the result on the finish line, and that is a penalty meted out on the line. It's still part of the race, and it has had a big impact on rider placings in the past; several riders made a kamikaze assault from Urtuu 27 in 2017 and finished so late they were either disqualified or moved right down the order because of a hefty time penalty. Make sure you leave plenty of time for the last leg. And as for veterinary penalties, the same standards apply at the finish as everywhere else on the course, and your last horse is as important as all your other ones. If you have paced it well you can enjoy a great gallop over the line and pass the vet, but hopefully after 999.5kms you have got the idea that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
We at Adventurists Towers are not hugely interested in the time intervals between riders, particularly towards the back of the field. Enforcing a penalty on the back markers will put their ability to finish the race in jeopardy, so from 2015 we will not enforce penalties for the trailing groups as soon as the leaders are through the last Penalty Urtuu. Penalties bite up in the thick of the action, but to be 6 hours behind will feel very much the same as being 8 hours behind, and so we will just get these riders across the finish line and classify them as finishers rather than give them exact placings. There's more about this here.
- Rider order affecting horse selection. There is a school of thought that the riders up front get to pick the best horses and their advantage gets compounded. Picking a horse after someone who you are 'officially' in front of in the race might make you feel hard done by, for example if they are carrying penalties but currently ahead of you. In truth horse selection is far more randomised than this, most riders couldn't pick the 'best' horses in the line-up by sight anyway, and riders at the rear of the field frequently record faster times than the leaders. It's much less significant than riders might expect.
- Delays at horse stations. Some days the horses are easier to catch than others. The herders are up at sparrow's fart to try and herd the Derby horses and have them on the line ready for the riders in the mornings, but it's conceivable that at 7am, you could still be a steed short of a Derby team. This is a shame but it affects everyone more or less equally and is also part and parcel of riding wild horses in Mongolia. We could keep them all tied up on the line for the entire event period but you wouldn't go very fast on a horse that had had no grass. There are no time 'credits' for late starts.
- Time spent de-camping if you can't get into a ger. We don't guarantee anyone a bed for the night, or floor space in the gers. If you ride in and the ger is already full to bursting, no-one is going to adjudicate who stays, who goes. All very Lord of the Flies. If you don't sleep very well, worse luck.
- Emergency race holds. There may be cases where there is a medical emergency on the course, both medical crews are tied up, and Field and UB HQ decide to suspend the race until cover can be resumed. To do this, all crews are informed to hold riders at the urtuus until further notice. Some riders will be between urtuus, sweetly oblivious to this instruction, and they may come in several hours after the 'Hold' call was announced to crews. In fact, the race may be back underway by the time they even arrive at the next urtuu. In these cases the urtuu teams calculate how long riders should be held for to even things up again. Given that it can take up to an hour for a message to get all the way down the line to all crews, not all riders may be held for the same time. Also, given that no-one will be able to say when the race will be underway again, some riders may take a nap/do their washing/start an epic poker tournament, and not be in a position to ride on again when crews get the go-ahead. In short, race holds introduce a degree of unfairness, which riders will have to swallow.
What constitutes an 'official finish'?
In 2015 we introduced the 'race' and 'adventure' categories, the suspension of the penalty system once it looked like the race was won. The 'race' riders got an official placing, and the others were classified day 8/9/10 finishers. As a device to get people round it works very well but it did mean that some riders finished on day 8, with masses of outside assistance, and some finished on day 9, with almost none, and there was little distinction between them.
From 2018, as described above, every penalty will be recorded and times adjusted to show what your actual finishing time would be IF you had sat every penalty in real time.
As long as you are not disqualified for misdemeanour, and you finish within the 10 racing days, once adjusted for penalties, you are an official finisher and will get an official placing.
You do not have to ride every km, though it rather defies the point of entering if you do not try to do so. If you get in a vehicle because of a mishap, and take the penalty, and subsequently get back into the race, your placing stands. For as long as you are riding towards the finish you are in the race and being scrutinised, and whilst the focus in the back of the field will be having fun and getting over the line, in any fashion, we will still (once the hangovers have subsided) publish the official record of who finished where.