Monday, November 03, 2008

Dreams can come true

The prologue, this consisted of a quick lap around the Dubai motocross track to determine the starting order for the following day, now all this was new to me and with 60 bikes and 20 quads entering the race I thought to start around 50th would suit me fine, that way I could just follow the tracks and not worry about the navigation side of things. I went around the track slowly but confidently enough wondering if the hour I spent in the desert two days before was enough training for what was to come. After the prologue was finished I had myself a starting position of 57th out of 80, that will do for me. So it was back to Dubai for one last nights rest. I was not nervous at all and had really no idea what to expect or what lay ahead.

Day 1, what a day, my fist experience at racing and what an experience it was, I will leave nothing out so here goes. Firstly I must thank Colin Mercer for helping me out to get to the start line and then without Sean Mayer's help throughout the race it would not have been possible, so Sean and I got up at 4am loaded the bike onto the trailer and set off for Abu Dahbi, 150 k's away from Dubai where the start was to take place at the Emirates Palace. We had gone no further than 10 k's and noticed a bag in the back of his truck missing, yep his boots and clothing bag had fallen out so turning around quickly to find them but only having luck with his boots, the clothes bag was no where to be seen, what a great start I thought, on we went. The ceremonial start was up over a ramp with a hand shake from Sheik Mohammed Bin Salaem, down the ramp i road with a liaison of about 50 k's to the start of the special stage. Each day consist of liaison stage's which is just the part you have to ride to get to the start line of that day or back to the bivouac at night, its not a race stage and then the special stage is the race timed stage. I made it to the start line in time to see the likes of Marc Coma and Cyril Depres scream off into the desert on their factory KTM's what a sight, I wondered what I would do, scream off, take it easy even fall off who knows but as the clock ticked away my time came closer, still not nervous at all, i felt good. Then it was me I got the count down, 20 seconds, 10 seconds, then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 go!!!

Getting geared up in Abu Dahbi for the start.

By the end after my big fall it did not quite look the same but what a machine it turned out to be

Away I went, naturally almost as hard as I could, its a long race and people had been telling me that a lot of people burn themselves out on day one by going to hard, so I went at about 3/4 pace for a long time, the going mainly flat with out much sand. Concentrating on working the road book and learning how to use the navigation but the skill was quickly acquired and got on with the job at hand. I passed a few bikes early and wondered if I was going to fast, my only fear wondering if I was on track to burn myself out like people say. The day went on and I grew in confidence, felt settled on the bike and finally the deeper I got into the desert the more sand began, passing a few more bikes I still felt good, remember these bikes started at 30 second time intervals ahead of me so it meant I was making up time on them. Through out the day I passed about 4 quads all parked up, the riders OK on their mobile phones, indicating their machines were broken, what a disappointment it must have been, I prayed that mine would just keep going on going to the end.

Day 1, the sevice point, after I fell off I had to wash the sand off my face, thanks Sean.

Riding the dunes.
I had covered about 270 's or so of special stage and still felt perfect so decided to get into it a bit as there was only 40 k's to go, through the dunes like a boat in ocean swell, rolling with them, I was enjoying it, then one caught me out, two fast off a drop of and I fell to the side as the bike went down my head slamming into the side of the dune, a little rattled I picked up the bike, quick inspection, everything including me beside a mouthful of sand and off I went again reaching the finish line shortly after, then with a 120 k liaison to the bivouac. Now a funny thing happened on this liaison, of course I had been re hydrating like nothing else, drinking so much water so not to get dehydrated in the desert, another big thing that stops riders. But i had dank clearly way to much and was consistently busting for a pee, eventually I had to stop by the side of the road to relieve one self, as I did I was so busting that when I went number one and and actually farted number two decided to rear its ugly head, as one would say. Hell here I was now with a problem, I swung my leg over the bike and stood up all the way to the next fuel station, climbed off my bike in front of a few Arab's who looked amazed, here's this rider all kitted up, with a race number and looking like I was apart of a major event, which I was, wondering off to the loo. cleaned myself up, lost the underwear and rode all the way to the bivouac minus my jocks!!! Anyway as it turned out I managed to have the 17th fastest time of the day, i was stoked with my efforts and felt still on top of things, not tired and looked forward to the next day.

Day 2-Its hard to remember exactly all the race but day two saw an early start, every day was an early start, first rider away at 6am and the higher you finish the closer you are to that time. I had another good day this time I managed to stay on my bike all day and spent most of it alone not been able to catch anyone nor anyone behind me catch me, over 300 k's out there screaming around in the desert, at the beginning I did come over a rise and see a bike on its side and then the rider about 30 metres in front of it laying on the ground, already another rider had stopped so I continued on when they gave me the thumbs up, I thought it can happen so easy, just be careful and don't get to excited, get to the finish line. Its very much a mind game out there, how hard to push, are you going fast enough, are you going to fast, its a long way to the end and the idea is to make it, for me never ever done such a thing I had no idea but just rode my bike best I could and at the same time careful enough. Again at the end I felt good and this time I had finished 13th overall, again I could not believe it, I was up against some amazing riders and plus I was aboard a 450 and half the field on the big 690 cc's, the dunes and tight stuff more suited to the smaller bikes I guess.

Simon Pavey, Aussie who has done the Dakar many times.
Day 3-what an amazing experience I had on this day. Since I started in 13th position it meant i was surrounded by some well know riders and once the stage got under way a group formed, in it were two factory ktm's, these guys have only ever been names to me, and here I was, in total there were 4 690's and two 450's, me on one of course and for the next 300k's we stuck together, I think their shear speed pulled me along faster than I may have gone on my own, the pace was blistering, sometimes 120 and more across the desert, at times going down huge dune slip faces, in a row, for me it was a sight to see, it was an amazing experience but then toward the end n the last 40 k's I fell on my side and by time I picked it up they ahead, I tried to catch them up but then fell again, I told myself to get a grip, let them go, I had kept up with them long enough, composing myself I made it almost to the line when faced with one more huge dune, i was getting tired by this point, almost got to the top and over again, picking up the bike I jumped on rode a metre and fell over the opposite side, I was exhausted, picking it one more time with a huge grunt, I rode carefully back down the dune turned around and roared up it, this time up and over to the finish line, another day down and now I was feeling the body, feeling the tiredness but what a day and my time was great, i think I finished 11th overall, not bad for a guy that only practiced for an hour!!

The mad Russians flew through the desert in thier Kamaz

Tim Trenker from Dubai KTM.

The winner of the cars. BMW X5

Day 4-Realising now that I did not have to conserve energy I would go for it all day, I knew my body would stand up to it and not run out of steam. I pushed all day but felt slow in the morning and my time proved that, I think I dropped as far as 20th in the first half of the day, I never was a morning person! But after the half way point I would get into it and made up my positions again, not sure where I finished but around 15th fastest for the day, with one to go things looked good and my nerves started to kick in. I was sitting 4th in the 450 class and that day the top Portuguese rider had taken a fall and broken his back, which of course was not good but it moved me into a podium place, 3rd looked good but the other Portuguese rider, Rodrigus was fast and I only had a 30 minute lead on him which if I kept it together would be enough to beat him across the line on the final day. But due to this possibility my nerves came for thefirst time in the race, going into the last day I was as nervous as hell!

On day 4 The number one in the world Marc Coma's bike failed, thats him getting a lift from a spectator!!

Day 5-the final leg that would see us back to Dubai, it started with a liaison of 118 k's to the start and then taking us out of the dunes and into more flatter terrain and requiring a lot more navigation as the stage found its way through camel farms and around roads. I felt good as I went and by the time I got to the halfway point to have my compulsory 15 minute break i was told Rodrigus had only made up 30 seconds on me so now more than ever I had to just get across the line and third was mine. Off I went for the final leg, not long after there was a bike parked on the side of the track, it was a 450 and it was the leader, he was out as he just gave a disappointed wave to me, this meant I was now in 2nd spot, then I made a navigational error and had to come back on myself about a kilometre or so, clearly I had time up my sleeve but I had to cross a series of dunes which took time, I told my self to calm down and just ride carefully, I did not listen to myself one bit, I hit about 90 right as I hit a small dune on the road and I flew landing on a huge mound of dirt on the other side, the bike bucked and I went flying on my own, spinning end oer end in the air, I was there that long that in my mind I had enough time to think to myself, shit this is going to hurt, an hurt bad! I landed with my head and then rolled down my back feet landing last and my momentum left me sitting up right, I paused stood up and could not believe it I was fine, I felt perfect, I ran back to the bike picked it up and pushed my road book back to its normal position and then found the map cover about 10 metres from the bike, ran got it, put it back on, started the bike and rode off. At that point I thought nothing was going to stop me finishing the race, I am meant to finish it as with a crash like that I was not really meant to even stand up but I was fine. But I had ripped the power cable out of the gps and navigation was now hard, I slowed to wait for a rider behind me to pass so I could follow him in to the finish, I stuck close to him and after the last set of dunes I could see the line, gave my leader the thumbs up and away I left him to cross the line, what a feeling to cross the line, 2200 k's out in the desert, every one of them flat out, I had made it and not only had I made it I had gotten a position, something I never ever thought would happen, all of a sudden i felt fine, I felt I had all the energy in the world, what a relief!
Tim Trenker at the finish line.

Marc Coma at the finish.

Me followed by Vinters on a 690 at the Finish line.

Some where not as lucky as others!

Cyril Depres, the winner of the open class.
Sheik Mohammad presenting me with second in class back in Dubai.
Then it was a short 45 k liaison into the Dubai Marina, for a beer, that went straight to my head, plus I think it was a light beer as well!! Over the ceremonial finish receiving my medal in front of a crowd and also live on TV. Then after a nice shower and a change of clothes it was the gala dinner to receive a trophy, and boy lucky I have other stuff to ship home as it would cost me a fortune alone to send it, it weighs a tone!
All I can say is it was worth it, what an experience, it does go to show that anyone of us can do anything we want to in this world if you want to do it bad enough, does not matter who you are, believe in yourself and keep telling yourself you can do it and you will get there, I did. I have made my dream come true in every way, I finished 11th overall, 2nd in 450's and 1st in my category of rally production, not a bad effort for a non sponsored rider that just rode 7000 k's on a Chinese motorbike, maybe that was the secret!
..............and if this is what racing is about count me in!!!