Q&A: Canadians at the Merzouga Rally, 2014

Racers blast over the Moroccan dunes.

The 2015 Dakar Rally stars this weekend, but today, we’ve got a report from another off-road challenge – Morocco’s Merzouga Rally.

The Merzouga Rally ran October 18-24, 2014 in Morocco. It’s been running since 2007; this year, 130 racers from 40 different countries rode in the event.

Claude Auchu was one of those riders, part of the five-man RG Canada team at the race. Here’s what he told us about this year’s rally.

What’s your off-roading background? What racing have you done before?


It’s my fifth season in my entire life as an off-road rider. I didn’t grow up with motocross, I’ve always ridden sport bikes until I tried a BMW R1200GS at a demo ride near Toronto. That was it, done deal.
Until this rally I’d done no racing, no competition at all. Just riding with friends and learning to be better each day. After two years of the GS, which I still own, I bought a 690 KTM. Probably one of the best all around bikes I know. So the trail became narrower and tougher. But still, no Enduro competition.

There are plenty of other rallies, why the Merzouga Rally?
I was in Morocco the year before … I liked it so much that I wanted to come back and ride in the dunes. So after talking to my friend Pat Trahan (who did it before), the Merzouga Rally came naturally .
Since the bivouac stays at the same place all week, it is a bit cheaper and easier to plan for a first rally. And I could enter with my 690!


How did you get your team together?
On August 21, I posted on Facebook “Merzouga Rally, that’s what I want to do. Who wants to do it?”
And that’s how everything started. After a few months, we had a team of five riders :

– René Cloutier (Canadian)
– Dominique Lemaire (Canadian)
– Patrick Trahan (Canadian – our Captain)
– John Tourles (USA)
– And me, Claude Auchu (Canadian)

We also had a mechanic with us — Stephane Guertin (Canadian) — who was really involved in every aspect of the rally. Our wives came too and a couple even brought their bikes to do a dune training session with Tina Meier.

Claude's KTM 690 before (top) and after.
Claude’s KTM 690 before (top) and after.

How did you get everything to Morocco?
We shipped our bikes in a container via Euro-Fret, from Montreal to Malaga, Spain. And then the bikes went to Merzouga by road on a trailer. It was a huge job to plan everything, especially the shipment.

Was the rally an expensive adventure?
Of course!! Hahahahah I transformed my 690 to a Rally Raid, plus all the pieces here and there that you need or want. To go there from North America and bring your bike, it’s around $10,000, all expenses included.

How did you prepare your bike for this rally? How did your prepare yourself?
First, I changed a lot of things on the bike, and spent a lot of time in the garage wrenching. I trained for 12 months in a gym with a trainer with the rally as the goal. And I had a coach to maximize my riding skills. And I did ride a lot of KM in the summer.

What were your thoughts after the first day of the rally? 
The first day, I was just happy! Enjoying every part of it, even when I was lost in the desert. Because I was there, doing it, riding it! I’ve seen pics and vids on the web from guys in the rally, now it was my time.

What about the last day?
The end is weird, I wasn’t prepared for that… it’s over … Strange feeling and mixed emotions. But proud, happy and knowing that nobody will ever be able to take that experience from me. I did it!


What is the most memorable incident from the rally?
I do remember quite clearly a guy riding a Beta who broke his two wrists, the third day of the rally. He jumped a dune without knowing what was on the other side of it. And there was a camel tree, right in his line. So the bike stopped, he went over the bars and clack! He broke his two wrists …

What did you learn from the Rally?
First, you can do everything. Dream, organize your life and focus on the goal you identified.
Second, you always make it. When the going gets tough, it will be fine and back to the bivouac again. Experiencing challenging situations gives you more ammunition for upcoming new ones. You know, you’ve been there and got out of it. You’ll do it again..

Claude's returning to race Merzouga again next year, and this time, his girlfriend is racing as well!
Claude’s returning to race Merzouga again next year, and this time, his girlfriend is racing as well!

Will you return to the Merzouga Rally?
YES! The experience was magical, we met such nice people and it’s the pinnacle of off-road competition.

What advice would you have for someone else who wanted to participate?
Prepare physically. The desert and the dunes are tough on the body. You will sweat a lot because of the temperature, the long days and the number of times you’ll need to pick up your bike. It will drain you!

What’s next?
Merzouga in 2015! My girlfriend, who came along with her bike but didn’t participate in 2014, wants to do it now.
How happy am I ! :)))

Team RG Canada – job done


Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.

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