And so tis done. Today I rode up onto the podium at La Rural, BA, the whole team joined me, Patsy, Tony, Zippy et al. I hadn’t expected them and nearly burst into tears. The last day or so has been alternately emotional and flat – weird. When I get back I’ll blog on all the different days as far as I can remember.
In the meantime, a huge thanks to Tony for keeping the bike running sweet despite my hamfisted riding, to Patsy, Zippy and Clive for help and advice not just during the race but over the two or three years prior to the start; to the Mikes – Shepherd and Robertson – for being the supportive rocks they are; to all the people who have supported and sent messages on the web-site and otherwise; to Charlie for being “the webmeister”; to Mario and family for helping me on Day 3 when I was low on everything – see guestbook – and for taking the time to find out about me and follow the race (I’ll email once I have access to a computer again); to Wendy for PR activity; to Santiago for towing me home on Day 13; and finally to my AJ for forcing me to get fit over the last 6 months, and just for being there.
Sadly not actually in Santiago, but the bivouac is in a dusty field north of the city. I suspect our route tomorrow takes us directly east so we’ll not get to see Santiago. I’ll need to come back. Although I thought I was up to 79th last night, by this morning the final results had me back to 86th. So the initial result from today’s stage (76th) I’ll take with a pinch of salt. The stage today was really fast and I should have done better. Unfortunately the liasion of 111k was on a tight time so by the time I had refuelled I had to go straight to start the stage. I was wearing a windproof shirt thing under my jacket but over my armour in order to keep warm on the liaison – I didn’t have time to take it off and open the vents in my jacket. 50k into the special I was cooking so I had to stop and sort that out. I let about 6 bikes by in the time it took me – I got them all back but for Tamsin who was clearly on one today. The last 5k of the stage was lined with shouting and cheering crowds which was amazing if slightly distracting. I’m getting properly tired now. I need to keep being aware of my falling concentration levels. Nevertheless, still in. Tony the wonderspanner keeps the bike in top shape. I think he’s now as tired as I am. Tomorrow is a long liasion stage back into Argentina then a shortish stage over rocks and lots of rocky dry riverbeds. 4 days left. Have Fun PC
This was the target and I’m delighted to have made it this far. The bike hasn’t missed a beat due to the efforts of Tony Woodham. Tony has the worst of it as he struggles to sleep in the day as the team travel, then has to work on my bike and Phil Noone’s bike all night. Day 7 was really long and tiring with lots of rocks and fesh fesh. For those of you not desert riders, fesh fesh is like talcum powder and it sits in hard clay ruts. You get no drive in it and if your wheel touches the hard rut then 50% of the time you’re over the bars. The trucks in particular dig deep ruts. So far I’m ok but my hands and wrists are sore. My back gets tired on the piste with 3 litres of water and a belt pack. Being passed by the cards and trucks is ok and I’ve only had a couple of near misses. The sentinel system seems to work ok. Today I’ll be a bit lazy but try to get organised for the next few days. Still a long way to go.
Not properly Day 2 as Day one was only a liaison stage. On Tarmac at that. Nevertheless yesterday was still an amazing day with huge crowds lining the route. The podium in Buenos Aires was a mad experience and one I’ll never get to repeat. All along the 317k route were families having barbeques and cheering us on. Carlyle autographs now exist, albeit rare. Mad! But fun! Today was my first proper Dakar stage. 650k with a 220k special stage. Very early start and I was suffering from my first attempt to sleep (unsuccessful) in a noisy bivouac tent (the mechanics work all night). I loved the stage though. It was shortened to 150k for some reason so was pretty easy. Nevertheless I took it very gently and survived intact – if almost last. The day ends on a sad note as it appears one of the Rally cars slid off the piste and into some spectators with the result that one of the spectators died. I guess with so many enthusiastic spectators it is kind of inevitable but very sad nevertheless. Another full tough day ahead so must remedy the sleep deficit. Have Fun. PC
This might be the last blog for a while. Race starts tomorrow. We have a compulsory briefing at 0930 then I think we sit around and read the roadbook till 1430 when the first bike starts. I’ll need to remember to take tape and a marker pen. I’m currently sitting with the team before our final meeting at 10. Not much left to do today hopefully. One of the Canadian riders is hosting a bit of a party tonight so may go along for a bit. I’m surprised I’m not more nervous at this point but maybe it will come. I’m just very keen to get started now. Yesterday was a bit manic with all the attention you get as a rider. I suspect the real proof will come out on the piste and in the dunes. Have fun. PC
Well that’s it. Scrutineering was very intense and exhausting but a couple of hours ago after an unexpected interview on a podium I put the bike into Parc Ferme. We’re done. Nothing more I can do. Just got final preps before Friday. Tony’s done a great job on the bike and she sailed through the technical checks. Have Fun. PC.
Been in Buenos Aires for 24 hours now. Nice to chill out but keen to get on and make progress. Think it could be a long day of preparation. Hopefully all will come together quickly. Have Fun. Paul.
Thanks Allan for the headline.I’m now sitting on a flight to Argentina. Duncan and I have already met a group running a truck and the assistance driver for David Fretigne.It begins…
Have Fun Paul
(seem to have format problems again – probably because doing this on my iPhone – I’ll see if I can get someone back at base to tidy these up).
Mrs Justice Cox just became my favourite lady for today. I don’t know if she’s entered the Dakar and maybe decided the strike was illegal so she could get there.
Nevertheless, strike banned – flights presumably going back to normal.
If I get beaten by a lady in a wig I’ll be depressed.
In a startling return to the 1970’s we’ve got a broke economy, hideous music industry (the X-factory product Joe is surely a new low) and vicious industrial relations disputes. Thierry Sabine ran away to the desert in 1976 and invented the Dakar Rallye – good plan.
Until BA’s (poverty stricken on 56k a year) cabin staff decide to go on a 12 day strike. On the 27th December I was planning to fly from Edinburgh to Heathrow, then Heathrow to Buenos Aires – all on BA! Duncan Tweedy has been a star and lined up some alternative flights but they’ll cost £1300 and while the Unions and BA battle things out in court and boardroom we have no idea whether our flights will happen or not. At some point we’ll just have to take a deep breath and decide which flights to go for (and I’ll need to find a new way to get to London).
Five years of building up to this race and all the stress, training and cash expended – there’s simply no option. If we have to swim to BA (that’s the capital of Argentina – not the soon to be insolvent airline), at least it will be good training. Fly the Flag…..
Strangely I’m not worried about the Rally now. I’m completely freaked about all the logistical nightmares that can intervene before the start. Do I have all the right paperwork? Have I got/can I get all the safety kit? My FIM race licence has still to come through but at least I now have the required Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. Will my funds hold out?
Scrutineering and administration time for me is 9 am on 30 December. I kind of hope I can get that all done in one day and have the 31 December to chill out – we shall see.
Once the race starts on the afternoon of 1 January, assuming I make it to the start, the riding bit will seem easy by comparison….
….always going to be another mountain……
Some photos taken by Graeme Warren while mountain biking at Innerleithen on a glorious day last Saturday – sometimes the training is fun too – he takes great photos see www.pixelmixphotography.com
and some more photos from Le Harve showing bikes all crated up for the boat trip – and the thing I don’t want to see – the sweeper truck…!