16 JANUARY 2005 – THE END IS NIGH
Dakar – Dakar (68 kms)
Liaison 37 kms
Special 31 kms
Note – Click here for the CMG Dakar Glossary (just in case you don’t understand some of the terminology used).
|Welcome to Dakar boys (we think that’s Bob on the left).Photo: Maindru Photo|
Despite having only 68 kms left to ride, we still got up in the dark. I made my way down to the buffet – bacon and eggs, Pain au chocolat, fresh coffee. A breakfast of champions!
The mood was completely different than the days before, everyone was happy and joking around as we waited on the beach. There were group photos and snapshots with friends. Etienne Lavigne and Patrick Zaniroli made a speech, followed by a sobering minute of silence for the riders no longer with us.
Then they dropped the flare and we were off!
|KTM did well.Photo: Maindru Photo|
The tide was too high this year to run down on the smooth part of the beach like I had always seen on television, so we were forced up high onto the soft stuff. I was used to riding in the soft sand by now, but I was still a little disappointed that I didn’t get to let it rip down the fast stuff.
After about 10 kms of beach, the course turned inland on a rutted-out track through the dunes. This would have been quite intimidating a few weeks ago but didn’t pose much of a problem anymore. The route was now completely lined with fans, everyone waving and cheering. I was getting used to this superstar status!
The ground then turned to hard and fast conditions, and the famous Lac Rose soon appeared, and, true to its name, the water was completely pink. A few more kilometres of weaving through the salt beds and I rolled past the chequered flag.
That was it, it was over. The bike could explode into a million pieces and it wouldn’t matter. The pressure was finally off, I had done the Dakar.
|Big smiles – waiting to ride up to the podium.Photo: Sharon McCrindle|
We all milled around and congratulated each other, shaking hands and hugging. I saw the Estonian that I had met so many days ago in the desert and walked over to shake his hand. We didn’t say a word, we just looked at each and laughed, knowing exactly what each other was thinking. I gave Simon a hug, and then we lined up for the podium.
I heard someone call my name and I saw Sharon and Elmer Symonds (one of the U.S. KTM mechanics), at the fence. The organizers wouldn’t let friends and family into the compound where the bikes were, even though they said they would, so Elmer helped her jump the fence before coming over himself.
There were more hugs and congratulations and then my number was called. I told Sharon to hop on the back of the bike and we both rode up the ramp to the top of the podium together. I was kind of nervous, after all I’d been through I didn’t want to come to a stop and fall over in front of everyone!
Etienne Lavigne gave me a pat on the back and said, “You should be very proud, as this rally has been very difficult.” A Senegalese woman in traditional dress then handed me a velvet case containing a Dakar finisher’s medal and a fellow with a microphone began to ask me questions about what it was like to be a finisher.
|Bob gets to meet Toby Moody.Photo: Sharon McCrindle|
I had dreamt of this moment, thinking it would be very emotional, and now all I could think about was saying something intelligent into the microphone. I made something up on the spot, spewing out meaningless rhetoric that would have made a Nascar driver proud; but as I thanked my wife for the sacrifices she had made to get me here, the emotions came pouring back out. I fought back the tears one last time.
The television cameras waited to interview the riders. Being a Canadian no-one could have cared less about me; had I been French or Dutch I would have had a five-minute spot on television everyday – even if I were in last place. At home we were lucky if it was even on TV.!
Then, out of the blue, Toby Moody appeared and asked me what it was like to finish. I had no idea how to describe it, I couldn’t really understand what had happened. It was really just a mind-numbing blur. I had run out of intelligent things to say and somewhat star-struck by the fact that Toby Moody was talking to me! I blabbed out something stupid.
|A well deserved nap.Photo: Sharon McCrindle|
Realizing they weren’t going to get anything newsworthy out of me, they turned off the cameras. Then Toby turned to me and said, “Don’t play this down. You have no idea how many people would like to be in your shoes right now. I don’t think you realize what you have done, boy!”
Toby Moody was absolutely right; I had no idea what I had done. I had just finished one of the most difficult Dakars in years, and I had done it against all odds. Traditionally, only about 30% of the first timers even make it to the end, but I had done it in my first attempt – without any assistance, all by myself; a feat I doubted anyone else achieved that year.
I parked the bike and went over to the catering tent they had set up for the sponsors, guests, and pilots. As I sat back and drank my first beer in months, I couldn’t have cared less about any of this any more.
All I really wanted to do was to go to sleep.
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.
The Harden off-road crew.
Everyone on the U.S. Red Bull KTM team.
And of course Sharon McCrindle.