Originally Posted by Deadly99
Not disputing it as being tough (I read yours and Grimoys RR's) and in fact its one of a few I am considering in a couple of years (need to save cash and get fit). But is it comparable to a flat out race.....from the RR's it seems as if the Hero's skirts the bulk of the dune days the FIM events ran....this is what kind of makes it appealling to someone like me who has very little sand experience but wants to challenge himself with a realalistic chance of finishing. Just saying...perhaps I am way off?
You're not way off at all Deadly, but you are confusing racing and the terrain - it doesn't matter what speed you are going (or decide to go at), if the sand is soft, you will crash/get stuck!
This year there were three days with dunes - the longest single stage about 120kms as I recall, then a liaison, then another 100kms of rocky/sandy scrub terrain...
Where the Heroes' roadbook [has to] differ from the original Dakar route is that northern Mauritania is now essentially out of bounds as all those boarders are now closed (which in past years I understand ASO managed to open up just for the Dakar).
The only crossing open now is from Western Sahara into Mauritania at Nouadhibou on the Atlantic coast. As such, last year's Heroes route had stages in Western Sahara to the boarder, then cut back inland (through small dunes) towards Atar, then picked up the Dakar stages lower down towards the Senegalese boarder (including one particular tough stage that was part of the 2006 Dakar that Patsy and Zippy finally finished).
However, those 'Big Sand' days in the Dakar (for example where Matt Hall had all that trouble in Race to Dakar) tended to be in the northern territories of Mauritania, and are unrealistic to get to in a two week time frame now, since yo have to go via Nouadhibou.
I'd say there is a good balance of sand - enough to make you work, but not so much as it kills you! The first of the dune days did skirt around the larger dunes (similar to those you find at Erg Chebbi for example) to start off with, which may or may not have been due to the roadbook being drawn up a few years ago, and the sands moving with time. Bit it did cross some big patches of sand - this photo was taken that day:
However, the second dune day is serious - a sand funnel steep climb up a canyon, followed by three fields of very soft sand:
However, perhaps the hardest day was when the roadbook followed through very small sandy dunes, covered in camel grass and other foliage - there was no real way to ride other than to follow the piste which was very rutted and soft - on a bike it was a nightmare. A number of us started to ride alongside this 'sand river', but it was hard and very slow going dodging round the tufts of camel grass the whole time.
The hardest part about the sand stages on Heroes (and the Dakar before) is that the soft tough stuff happens over halfway through the event, when you are already tired and suffering - so making mistakes is even more common.
I'd say if you were fit, and had plenty of off-road riding experience, you could enter Heroes-Legend straight off - the nice thing about this event is it's not essential to have previous FIM rally experience or a [very expensive!] licence... and the sand thing you'll just have to deal with!
However, it might be a good idea to do something like the Tuareg Rally first, which features plenty of sand (some might say too much!) to gain experience, and to see where you might improve before spending what is a considerable amount of money don't forget...
But if you can, do it - you won't regret it!