It’s never as bad as it seems


Agadir to Smara (654 kms)

Liaison 240 kms
Special 381 kms
Liaison 33 kms

Note – Click here for the CMG Dakar Glossary (just in case you don’t understand some of the terminology used).

At last I woke up feeling well rested. I had taken a Gravol pill before bed that I had in reserve for the boat crossing and it seemed to knock me right out. It was tough to sleep in the Bivouac at the best of times, it was always fully lit and there was a constant racket of air tools, bike engines and generators throughout the night.

Riders amass before tackling the special.Photo: Bob Bergman

Sleeping pills, eyeshades and earplugs became standard equipment.

Today was to be the first real African stage – with a special of 380 kms on tight rocky tracks, punctuated by high-speed runs across dry lakebeds. Traditionally the Moroccan stages are very rough on equipment and even the slightest slip-up can fatally damage the bike and put you out of the race. My goal was to save the bike and wheels and get through the stage unscathed. Once again I reminded myself that there was more to be lost by going fast than there was to be gained.

The stage started out with a fast pace through some sweeping hills that proved to be a lot of fun. Of course it didn’t last long, and I soon found myself navigating a slow rocky trial. It also didn’t take long before other riders caught and passed me. This was fine with me, I wanted to ride my own pace and not get sucked into racing someone else.

My plan quickly started to pay dividends as usually only minutes after someone would blow past me, I would pass them back – picking their bike up out of the rocks and assessing the damage.

Watch out for that ditch!Photo: Maindru Photo

This was first time that I really got to use the road book in a special stage and I rode cautiously as I tried to relate the notes of the road book to the trail in front of me. For example, when it showed a big ditch, just how big was it?

I wasn’t the only one with this problem as I soon came across a huge ditch that had been marked with “!!!” (triple exclamation marks mean extreme danger). On the other side of the ditch was one of the Repsol factory bikes – completely destroyed, its rider beside receiving medical attention. He had obviously not been watching the road book or not understood how big the ditch was, and judging by the distance he and the bike had flown, had hit it at a very high speed.

Although I had been complaining about how much my butt had been aching on liaisons the day before, I couldn’t wait for the chotts (dry lake beds) to be able to sit down again. My lower back and arms were now screaming from the hours of standing up, as I worked my way carefully through the rocks.

Gradually the track eased up and became faster as I finally emerged onto an enormous chott that would take me to the end of the stage. It was completely flat as far as the eye could see in every direction, like being out in the middle of the ocean. I tucked in behind the fairing and relaxed as I followed the GPS arrow straight toward the final CP.

Speed isn’t everything.Photo: Maindru Photo

Other riders began to burn past me at crazy speeds but I recalled the words of Guy Giroux, a fellow Canadian who had already done the Dakar and who I had bought the KTM 660 from. He’d told me hat as long as you didn’t go over 120 kph, the motor would last forever. And he had recounted the story of riders passing him on the flats only to eventually pass them all back when they’d destroyed their bikes.

He finished 16th in his first Dakar, I figured he knew a thing or two.

It was around 3:30 pm when I arrived at the finish of the special; it had taken 5 hours to cover the 380 kms, but I hadn’t fallen once. I was pleased that it was still light out as I would have a reasonable amount of time to eat and work on the bike before bed. The days were only going to get longer and harder, but I felt significantly better than I had a few days ago.

Having gone through those rough nights had taught me a valuable lesson: if things got bad again, I now had the confidence of knowing that I would be able to pull it together and get through it. I recalled the credo that Scot Harden had told me months ago, ”No matter how hard it gets, it’s never as bad as it seems.”

Time for bed.

Next day

Back to main diary index

Dakar related Links:

Official Dakar website – Daily updates of the 2006 Rally.

Maindru Photo (who graciously supplied us with pictures) – Check out their daily update of pics from the 2006 Dakar.

Eurosport – Dakar 2006 coverage.

Total Motorsport – Latest news from a Dakar sponsor.

Adventure Rider website forum on racing – Lots of Dakar threads going on.

ODSC website – Read all about how Bob prepped his KTM 660.


Bob would like to thank the following people for helping make his Dakar adventure possible:

Jim, Colin, Richard and the crew at Cycle Improvements.
Michel, Paul and Jocelyn at Kimpex.
Guy, Patrick, Bill and Mario from KTM Canada.
Digby and the ODSC posse.
Lawrence Hacking.
The Harden off-road crew.
Everyone on the U.S. Red Bull KTM team.
And of course Sharon McCrindle.

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