Rethinking the Dakar


Barcelona – Barcelona (54 kms)

Liaison 27 kms
Special 10 kms
Liaison 17 kms

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

Bob and friends – Joe Barker (KTM USA, left) and Kevin Heath (right).Photo: Jonathan Edwards

Yesterday was my last day off. My wife Sharon and my Mom had come over from Canada and my brother flew in from Amsterdam, so that they could accompany me down to Granada and see me off from there.

We spent the day doing some sight-seeing and last minute details. I also hooked up with my friend Kevin Heath, who I had met at the Nevada Rally Experience in Las Vegas. Kevin was a privateer and, like myself, was riding a KTM 660 and was also doing the Dakar unsupported. Since we also had a similar mind set toward the race, we naturally hooked up to help each other.

Today’s events started with a riders’ meeting, which was a who’s who of rallying, with Alfie Cox, Fabrizio Meoni, Shlesser and of course, me. I meet the Rauseo boys (Charlie and Dave) – two American brothers who were also attempting the Rally on bikes that they had rented through Rallye-Raid UK.

After the meeting, everyone milled around the entrance to Parc fermé, waiting for his or her number to be called to start today’s stage. After about an hour wait I was let in to collect my bike, given a time card and sent back out into the crowds.

Hitting the beach.Photo: Sharon McCrindle

Today’s special was to be 10km run up and down the beach in Castelldefels, a small town outside Barcelona. I followed the road-book out of town towards the beach and back into the crowds. The streets were closed to traffic and everywhere they were lined with people.

I knew that in the grand scheme of things that this stage meant nothing – 10kms out of 5,500 wasn’t even going to scratch the surface. My goal was simply not to fall down in front of the hundreds of thousands of people that had come out to see it.

They were going to start us in pairs and I was put up against a Dutch man on a 2-wheel drive Yamaha. When the flag dropped the Dutch sand master quickly disappeared from sight, leaving me to fend for myself.

Doing the jumps and letting off the throttle has consequences …Photo: Maindru Photo

The first hundred yards were gravel and went off without a hitch … then we hit the beach. I’ve never quite seen sand like this before … or since. It was very course and wet, sort of like wet cement without enough water in it. I hadn’t ridden a bike in over a month and this was no place to work out the rust. The ruts were over a foot deep and the bike had a mind of its own, it was all I could do to keep it pointed in the general direction of the course.

Once I had finally come to grips with guiding the bike between the sides of this 50-foot wide track they decided it was time to introduce some jumps. I knew that as long as I kept the throttle pinned and my weight back, the bike would more or less go where I wanted; but the moment I crested the first jump, I instinctively rolled off the gas – the front wheel bit in, launching me over the bars!

So much for my plan of not falling.

I jumped up, picked up my bike and set of for the next jump, only to do it all over again. By now my heart rate was through the roof, I had only gone 2kms, and already I was realizing the benefits of a year of cardiovascular training. I settled myself down, tried not to over grip, and in what seemed like a lifetime, the turn at the far end of the course finally appeared.

But this posed a brand new problem – turning. To avoid any ruts I ended up taking the turn so wide that I sent the photographers running for cover.

The checked flag did eventually fall, and dripping with sweat and gasping for air, I had endured the longest 10 minutes of my life! I had barely made it through a 10km special, what was I doing entering the Dakar?

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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