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Old 04-13-2012, 02:54 AM   #256
Åmme
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Joined: Nov 2009
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Great story waiting to see next chapter
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Old 04-13-2012, 08:42 AM   #257
biggles0449
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Tuareg Rallye day 2, Missour to Merzouga

Tuareg Rallye day 2, Missour to Merzouga
Day 2, waking up for breakfast, I sit and have a chat with Vince and Dax as we’re getting all our gear on for the day ahead. Dax got the 2nd best result out of our team on day 1, coming in with 35th place, so he was knocking out a decent pace already, coming from a Scottish MX and Enduro background, he’s got the skills and the speed needed.
The guys were looking ready for action and I was busily trying to get myself into the same state of mind. After breakfast, everybody started to take care of what would become their usual routines for the morning. I was loading my roadbook, others were doing the same. A few of the guys with early starts had already ridden off to find the start area and watch the cars leave. Dax and I rode together up to the start area, at the base of some small hills..the morning was still pretty cool, overcast and it looked like it was going to be a dusty day ahead..

Arriving at the holding area, all cars were lined up and ready for the start signals, the Orga were busy taking photos and someone was flying a camera drone in front of the cars as they waited for the flag to drop... it all looked pretty cool!
I was having a tinker with my bike, double checking everything and making an adjustment to my troublesome rear tank quick connector. As is normal, you have a chat with the guys around you, ease the tension slightly, and for some reason..starting a race is like a diuretic to me.. i always need a leak! I wandered off to take a couple of pictures of guys on the startline, with my crappy camera [note to self, it’s about time I found a decent compact digital, that will do for races]. As the bikes started moving off, I watched the first few and began dropping into my pre race frame of mind.

Drawing back and watching what’s going on around me, I take it all in and focus on the task at hand. When i’m training, I am more than happy to ride with friends and take it in turns navigating, but when I get to a race, I find that unless I’m riding for myself, then I don’t concentrate enough. Small mistakes at the speeds we are hitting can result in big injuries.. small things like riding in dust, not seeing washouts, looking back to see if your buddy is still on your tail, i’ve heard the stories from friends, one who had a race ending crash in the Dakar, helping another rider get through a stage.Harsh it may be, but I don’t want to be taking the risk by teaming up with people, on special tests. Liaisons, no problem, the speeds are lower and it’s always good to have someone to share it with. I think I might have offended one or two people when they casually said, “ oh that’s cool, we can ride together then”.
My start time approaches and I move forwards to the line, ahead of me lies a dusty, rocky valley. 3 bikes around me, we’re all ready for the off. The countdown ends and it’s go! Blasting off up the valley, the roadbook points me up a quick scramble along a goatpath, up and over onto a plain.. where I find tens of bikes all circling, stationary and lost. Less than a minute into the test and all the guys in front of me are lost.. this isn’t a good sign. I take stock, and remember what Zippy taught me, trust the roadbook and don’t try to interpret it. I check the directions, catch the bearing needed from the GPS, and head left along the top of a cliff, looking down at a Oued. The roadbook gives instructions to drop down into the Oued and follow it along for a few KM’s..thankfully I made the right choice, following the oued along to the exit, I picked off a few of the slower riders and popped back up onto the plane. In the distance, i could see plumes of dust, as the cars and amateurs were ahead on a track we should join. I absolutely pinned the bike along the trails continuing to pick riders off one by one.

It was a seriously dusty day, on open trails, the danger being, they were fast. It would be so easy to clip a rock or a washout going along in someone else’s dust, so I decided to just give it hell and get past as many people as I could. This was more my kind of riding, nice long special tests, into the hundreds of kilometres. Gives me chance to get dialled in and find my rhythm. I’d gotten to grips with the GPS combining with the roadbook and everything was going well. Gradually, i moved up through the field, being careful not to roost people as I passed them. They certainly weren’t expecting to be passed like they were standing still! I was on a flyer, navigation was made easier by the trails of dust in the distance, but I still made sure to keep the roadbook and ICOs under control. Speeds were getting up to 120-130 km/h even in these dusty conditions, but it was what was needed. The special test went really well for me and I started catching some of the Desert Rose team, now I knew I was getting back on track. The special was a mix of all sorts of trails, but it ended with a fantastic ride through a small oued that wound its’ way up a tight valley, loose sand berms on the outside of the corners and big rocks lining the apexes, it was a real blast to ride along. At the head of this oued, was a secret checkpoint, where I caught up with the remaining guys from our team. Quietly pleased with myself, I asked how everyone was and we were about to have a drink and a chat, when the guys at the CP told us we were still being timed. Shit! We all looked at each other, jumped on the bikes and took off to finish the test.. the next bit of navigation was a bit of a joke, as nobody really followed it, and eventually we all ended up on a gravel track, opening the bikes up for the sprint into the end of the test.. bloody brilliant fun! At the finish, Dax and Chris were there, having started much earlier. The buzz was back and I was feeling it.

We all stopped for a bit of food and a drink, regrouped and then headed off towards the town for fuel. The afternoon section would be navigation, followed by another special test. Dax and I started riding together for a while, but we got split up on the Nav stage, when we caught the cars. This is where I had my oh shit moment. Chasing cars down along dusty trails is never fun, but when you have driver’s that are obsessed with not letting you pass, it doesn’t improve things! I got stuck behind a car, that was doing just this, darting from left to right in his mirrors, going off piste and getting alongside to try and cut in front.. nothing worked and he wouldn’t back down...I thought to myself, what is this wanker up to.. it’s not a timed test, why wont he let me through, when im obviously faster.. I looked at my roadbook and saw a danger marked.. some big double washouts. Bollocks, I didn’t have time to be looking down again, to see how much distance I had, and thought “i’ve gotta make a move and get past this asshole” I got past on the left, out of the cars’ dust, to be faced immediately, with the washouts.. OK time to think quick, cant brake, there’s a car behind and braking will put me out of shape.. Don’t give it more gas, because I cant see the next washout.. so.. I just hung on! I dived into the washout and up the exit ramp jumping onto the top.. immediately dropping into the second one, which seemed steeper and narrower.. this time i really took off. I am more than happy to admit, when I landed, my heart and my arse were twitching! Slowing down briefly to recompose myself, process what had just happened and then opened her back up again.. that was how it stayed. The rest of the stage was fantastic fun. I waited for Dax at the end of the navigation stage, he said we’d just split early on, and I was on one, so he didn’t want to try and catch up..which on reflection, was the sensible choice-I really didn’t need to be going so fast on a navigation test, but as always, it’s hard to ride slow!
We rode the next liaison with Vince and Chris for a while, along the some nice sweeping trails and took it all in. Then the trails became brutal...relentless rocky tracks, that were fast, meant we were shaking our fillings out going along. Thankfully for me, I was on my bike and had suspension that was beautifully set up by Dr Shox, so it wasn’t a big issue. Poor old Dax was riding a rental bike and his grip was shot. We slowed and he followed my lead, to get to the end of this misery! Chris and Vince were playing cat and mouse with us for a while and then, a few minutes after we took the lead, Chris came off on what seemed like a benign bit of track. Vince said he had come round the corner, to find Chris in the track, sitting there, looking at his hand.. he couldn’t see any reason why. Talking to Chris, he said the same, maybe a loss of concentration for a second, or maybe just an unlucky rock.. whatever it was, it had sent Chris on a flyer, broken his handguard and slashed the palm of his hand open. Poor bugger, he was flying on the first day and the first test today.. and now, as we saw him come into the control area, hand wrap[ped in bloody bandages, it didn’t look good. The medic took a look at Chris and it was obvious what was going to come next.. Chris took the choice to ride the road to Merzouga and get his hand looked at. We all felt for him, but we couldn’t dwell on it. Wished him well, but we still had a special to take care of.

Dax and I had ridden to the road, following the roadbook, for petrol, but something didn’t seem right, I stopped to check my roadbook for waypoints etc, and i chose to U-turn back to the CP I had just seen... just in case! Turns out it was the start of the next special, so I was fine. I went back to look for Dax and find some fuel, but I wasn’t to see him again until the bivouac in Merzouga. Returning to the start of the test, I chatted with Vince for a bit, whilst getting some food and water into me and prepared for another, long test to Merzouga, finishing through Erg Chebbis’ dunes.

I handed my card to the start marshall, picked up my start time and went for it.. immediately vlasting off along the maze of trails... but, then I found my next mistake. I hadn’t loaded the second set of GPS points for the test... GPS was showing me nothing and I didn’t realise why! Luckily, when I realised something was worng, I headed back to a known point, just as Vince was coming along, looking equally confused. We stopped briefly and realised neither of us had set the GPS points at the start of the stage.. so it was an easy fix. And off we shot. These were my kind of trails, flowing, rocky, dusty and plenty of navigation.. I was into the groove again and after the time lost at the start, was determined to make it back! Vince was soon off the back and I was back to chasing dust plumes on the horizon! One by one, I picked riders off, marking the waypoints as I went...there was no way I was going to miss another! Coming along a oued after a waypoint, I had a couple of bikes going in the opposite direction towards it... this left me doubting myself for a second, but I stuck to my guns. Then the next bike was Vince. Oh balls, he doesn’t make mistakes on nav..have i buggered things up somehow?! A quick chat and we agreed to disagree, sticking to our paths.. thankfully, Vince had made a mistake further back and come from a parallel trail to hit the waypoint. A blast along the increasingly sandy trails and I knew I was getting closer to Merzouga..some of the trails I recognised from previous trips, so I let the bike rip and just hung on for the ride, i was having a fantastic time and enjoying every minute of it!

Pulling into the finish area, at Merzouga, it was a relief to have finished the day, but at the same time, i was buzzing! I met with Dax again to share stories from the day, saw Chris, and heard about the shitty time he had been through, then we all sat down for a beer by Patsys’ truck. We all found some tents to spend the next few days in and grabbed showers, before heading off for fuel and the obligatory maintenance for the evening.I was doing my own spannering for the Tuareg, with help from Patsy, as and when I needed it. Thankfully, my bike was in a decent state, so not alot was required. Roadbooks replaced, bike fluids and filters checked, a quick once over of everything and it was time to relax!

The usual stories came out in the evening, and then we got a new one. A member of the Orga came up to us looking concerned, Matt was still in the desert and it was dark.. they were searching for him with the army. This raised all the alarm bells in our camp, because we all knew Matt was in the camp.. he hadn’t handed in his timecard... needless to say the Orga were pretty pissed off, but they let him continue the next day, with a stern warning. We could only laugh amongst ourselves, because if anyone was gonna do it, it was always going to be Matt! He was walking around oblivious, still with a big grin on his chops, except for the small issue of 2 black eyes developing and a bloody, slightly twisted nose! Turns out, Matt had found the dunes at the back of Erg Chebbi...but didn’t really know about how to ride them, so without slowing went straight over the top of one..nose diving off the back and headbutting his nav tower, with enough force to mash his face and knock himself out! He came to, composed himself as much as Matt could.. and brought the bike home. What a champion! To add icing to the day, a third rider from our team retired today, due to a similar crash, but the result was a knocked out front tooth.. I think the crash shook him up quite alot as he was being pretty sharp with everyone that evening, but it was understandable, if a little unpleasant.

What a day. No shortage of stories and with 8 hours on the bike today, some tired bodies! Evening briefing came and went, as did dinner.. a few of us waited for results, but they never came.. so off we went to bed, after grabbing our food for the next day from the red boxes.. it was like feeding time at a zoo.. Ive never seen grown adults act like animals when those 3 red boxes got opened each evening!
Waking up in the middle of the night, I went to check the results and start times for the next day.. 27th for the day and Dax got 21st. Thatll do nicely! Now Im starting to feel better about my riding and slowly starting to climb back up the rankings.. as Zippy and Chris had said to me earlier in the week, the sand is where it’s won or lost, don’t worry about 4 hours of penalties. I knew i was good enough in the sand, I just needed to know how good everyone else was...
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Old 04-13-2012, 10:39 AM   #258
clearandlock
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Location: Lives London, England, Home Town Sydney Australia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biggles0449 View Post
Tuareg Rallye day 2, Missour to Merzouga
Day 2, waking up for breakfast, I sit and have a chat with Vince and Dax as we’re getting all our gear on for the day ahead. Dax got the 2nd best result out of our team on day 1, coming in with 35th place, so he was knocking out a decent pace already, coming from a Scottish MX and Enduro background, he’s got the skills and the speed needed.
The guys were looking ready for action and I was busily trying to get myself into the same state of mind. After breakfast, everybody started to take care of what would become their usual routines for the morning. I was loading my roadbook, others were doing the same. A few of the guys with early starts had already ridden off to find the start area and watch the cars leave. Dax and I rode together up to the start area, at the base of some small hills..the morning was still pretty cool, overcast and it looked like it was going to be a dusty day ahead..

Arriving at the holding area, all cars were lined up and ready for the start signals, the Orga were busy taking photos and someone was flying a camera drone in front of the cars as they waited for the flag to drop... it all looked pretty cool!
I was having a tinker with my bike, double checking everything and making an adjustment to my troublesome rear tank quick connector. As is normal, you have a chat with the guys around you, ease the tension slightly, and for some reason..starting a race is like a diuretic to me.. i always need a leak! I wandered off to take a couple of pictures of guys on the startline, with my crappy camera [note to self, it’s about time I found a decent compact digital, that will do for races]. As the bikes started moving off, I watched the first few and began dropping into my pre race frame of mind.

Drawing back and watching what’s going on around me, I take it all in and focus on the task at hand. When i’m training, I am more than happy to ride with friends and take it in turns navigating, but when I get to a race, I find that unless I’m riding for myself, then I don’t concentrate enough. Small mistakes at the speeds we are hitting can result in big injuries.. small things like riding in dust, not seeing washouts, looking back to see if your buddy is still on your tail, i’ve heard the stories from friends, one who had a race ending crash in the Dakar, helping another rider get through a stage.Harsh it may be, but I don’t want to be taking the risk by teaming up with people, on special tests. Liaisons, no problem, the speeds are lower and it’s always good to have someone to share it with. I think I might have offended one or two people when they casually said, “ oh that’s cool, we can ride together then”.
My start time approaches and I move forwards to the line, ahead of me lies a dusty, rocky valley. 3 bikes around me, we’re all ready for the off. The countdown ends and it’s go! Blasting off up the valley, the roadbook points me up a quick scramble along a goatpath, up and over onto a plain.. where I find tens of bikes all circling, stationary and lost. Less than a minute into the test and all the guys in front of me are lost.. this isn’t a good sign. I take stock, and remember what Zippy taught me, trust the roadbook and don’t try to interpret it. I check the directions, catch the bearing needed from the GPS, and head left along the top of a cliff, looking down at a Oued. The roadbook gives instructions to drop down into the Oued and follow it along for a few KM’s..thankfully I made the right choice, following the oued along to the exit, I picked off a few of the slower riders and popped back up onto the plane. In the distance, i could see plumes of dust, as the cars and amateurs were ahead on a track we should join. I absolutely pinned the bike along the trails continuing to pick riders off one by one.

It was a seriously dusty day, on open trails, the danger being, they were fast. It would be so easy to clip a rock or a washout going along in someone else’s dust, so I decided to just give it hell and get past as many people as I could. This was more my kind of riding, nice long special tests, into the hundreds of kilometres. Gives me chance to get dialled in and find my rhythm. I’d gotten to grips with the GPS combining with the roadbook and everything was going well. Gradually, i moved up through the field, being careful not to roost people as I passed them. They certainly weren’t expecting to be passed like they were standing still! I was on a flyer, navigation was made easier by the trails of dust in the distance, but I still made sure to keep the roadbook and ICOs under control. Speeds were getting up to 120-130 km/h even in these dusty conditions, but it was what was needed. The special test went really well for me and I started catching some of the Desert Rose team, now I knew I was getting back on track. The special was a mix of all sorts of trails, but it ended with a fantastic ride through a small oued that wound its’ way up a tight valley, loose sand berms on the outside of the corners and big rocks lining the apexes, it was a real blast to ride along. At the head of this oued, was a secret checkpoint, where I caught up with the remaining guys from our team. Quietly pleased with myself, I asked how everyone was and we were about to have a drink and a chat, when the guys at the CP told us we were still being timed. Shit! We all looked at each other, jumped on the bikes and took off to finish the test.. the next bit of navigation was a bit of a joke, as nobody really followed it, and eventually we all ended up on a gravel track, opening the bikes up for the sprint into the end of the test.. bloody brilliant fun! At the finish, Dax and Chris were there, having started much earlier. The buzz was back and I was feeling it.

We all stopped for a bit of food and a drink, regrouped and then headed off towards the town for fuel. The afternoon section would be navigation, followed by another special test. Dax and I started riding together for a while, but we got split up on the Nav stage, when we caught the cars. This is where I had my oh shit moment. Chasing cars down along dusty trails is never fun, but when you have driver’s that are obsessed with not letting you pass, it doesn’t improve things! I got stuck behind a car, that was doing just this, darting from left to right in his mirrors, going off piste and getting alongside to try and cut in front.. nothing worked and he wouldn’t back down...I thought to myself, what is this wanker up to.. it’s not a timed test, why wont he let me through, when im obviously faster.. I looked at my roadbook and saw a danger marked.. some big double washouts. Bollocks, I didn’t have time to be looking down again, to see how much distance I had, and thought “i’ve gotta make a move and get past this asshole” I got past on the left, out of the cars’ dust, to be faced immediately, with the washouts.. OK time to think quick, cant brake, there’s a car behind and braking will put me out of shape.. Don’t give it more gas, because I cant see the next washout.. so.. I just hung on! I dived into the washout and up the exit ramp jumping onto the top.. immediately dropping into the second one, which seemed steeper and narrower.. this time i really took off. I am more than happy to admit, when I landed, my heart and my arse were twitching! Slowing down briefly to recompose myself, process what had just happened and then opened her back up again.. that was how it stayed. The rest of the stage was fantastic fun. I waited for Dax at the end of the navigation stage, he said we’d just split early on, and I was on one, so he didn’t want to try and catch up..which on reflection, was the sensible choice-I really didn’t need to be going so fast on a navigation test, but as always, it’s hard to ride slow!
We rode the next liaison with Vince and Chris for a while, along the some nice sweeping trails and took it all in. Then the trails became brutal...relentless rocky tracks, that were fast, meant we were shaking our fillings out going along. Thankfully for me, I was on my bike and had suspension that was beautifully set up by Dr Shox, so it wasn’t a big issue. Poor old Dax was riding a rental bike and his grip was shot. We slowed and he followed my lead, to get to the end of this misery! Chris and Vince were playing cat and mouse with us for a while and then, a few minutes after we took the lead, Chris came off on what seemed like a benign bit of track. Vince said he had come round the corner, to find Chris in the track, sitting there, looking at his hand.. he couldn’t see any reason why. Talking to Chris, he said the same, maybe a loss of concentration for a second, or maybe just an unlucky rock.. whatever it was, it had sent Chris on a flyer, broken his handguard and slashed the palm of his hand open. Poor bugger, he was flying on the first day and the first test today.. and now, as we saw him come into the control area, hand wrap[ped in bloody bandages, it didn’t look good. The medic took a look at Chris and it was obvious what was going to come next.. Chris took the choice to ride the road to Merzouga and get his hand looked at. We all felt for him, but we couldn’t dwell on it. Wished him well, but we still had a special to take care of.

Dax and I had ridden to the road, following the roadbook, for petrol, but something didn’t seem right, I stopped to check my roadbook for waypoints etc, and i chose to U-turn back to the CP I had just seen... just in case! Turns out it was the start of the next special, so I was fine. I went back to look for Dax and find some fuel, but I wasn’t to see him again until the bivouac in Merzouga. Returning to the start of the test, I chatted with Vince for a bit, whilst getting some food and water into me and prepared for another, long test to Merzouga, finishing through Erg Chebbis’ dunes.

I handed my card to the start marshall, picked up my start time and went for it.. immediately vlasting off along the maze of trails... but, then I found my next mistake. I hadn’t loaded the second set of GPS points for the test... GPS was showing me nothing and I didn’t realise why! Luckily, when I realised something was worng, I headed back to a known point, just as Vince was coming along, looking equally confused. We stopped briefly and realised neither of us had set the GPS points at the start of the stage.. so it was an easy fix. And off we shot. These were my kind of trails, flowing, rocky, dusty and plenty of navigation.. I was into the groove again and after the time lost at the start, was determined to make it back! Vince was soon off the back and I was back to chasing dust plumes on the horizon! One by one, I picked riders off, marking the waypoints as I went...there was no way I was going to miss another! Coming along a oued after a waypoint, I had a couple of bikes going in the opposite direction towards it... this left me doubting myself for a second, but I stuck to my guns. Then the next bike was Vince. Oh balls, he doesn’t make mistakes on nav..have i buggered things up somehow?! A quick chat and we agreed to disagree, sticking to our paths.. thankfully, Vince had made a mistake further back and come from a parallel trail to hit the waypoint. A blast along the increasingly sandy trails and I knew I was getting closer to Merzouga..some of the trails I recognised from previous trips, so I let the bike rip and just hung on for the ride, i was having a fantastic time and enjoying every minute of it!

Pulling into the finish area, at Merzouga, it was a relief to have finished the day, but at the same time, i was buzzing! I met with Dax again to share stories from the day, saw Chris, and heard about the shitty time he had been through, then we all sat down for a beer by Patsys’ truck. We all found some tents to spend the next few days in and grabbed showers, before heading off for fuel and the obligatory maintenance for the evening.I was doing my own spannering for the Tuareg, with help from Patsy, as and when I needed it. Thankfully, my bike was in a decent state, so not alot was required. Roadbooks replaced, bike fluids and filters checked, a quick once over of everything and it was time to relax!

The usual stories came out in the evening, and then we got a new one. A member of the Orga came up to us looking concerned, Matt was still in the desert and it was dark.. they were searching for him with the army. This raised all the alarm bells in our camp, because we all knew Matt was in the camp.. he hadn’t handed in his timecard... needless to say the Orga were pretty pissed off, but they let him continue the next day, with a stern warning. We could only laugh amongst ourselves, because if anyone was gonna do it, it was always going to be Matt! He was walking around oblivious, still with a big grin on his chops, except for the small issue of 2 black eyes developing and a bloody, slightly twisted nose! Turns out, Matt had found the dunes at the back of Erg Chebbi...but didn’t really know about how to ride them, so without slowing went straight over the top of one..nose diving off the back and headbutting his nav tower, with enough force to mash his face and knock himself out! He came to, composed himself as much as Matt could.. and brought the bike home. What a champion! To add icing to the day, a third rider from our team retired today, due to a similar crash, but the result was a knocked out front tooth.. I think the crash shook him up quite alot as he was being pretty sharp with everyone that evening, but it was understandable, if a little unpleasant.

What a day. No shortage of stories and with 8 hours on the bike today, some tired bodies! Evening briefing came and went, as did dinner.. a few of us waited for results, but they never came.. so off we went to bed, after grabbing our food for the next day from the red boxes.. it was like feeding time at a zoo.. Ive never seen grown adults act like animals when those 3 red boxes got opened each evening!
Waking up in the middle of the night, I went to check the results and start times for the next day.. 27th for the day and Dax got 21st. Thatll do nicely! Now Im starting to feel better about my riding and slowly starting to climb back up the rankings.. as Zippy and Chris had said to me earlier in the week, the sand is where it’s won or lost, don’t worry about 4 hours of penalties. I knew i was good enough in the sand, I just needed to know how good everyone else was...
awesome!
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Old 04-13-2012, 02:13 PM   #259
baldricks-socks
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Sadly I'm sat at Brixton academy watching a gig and all I can think of is my next rally !! Think I need more beer :)
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Old 04-13-2012, 04:04 PM   #260
brent tex
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Nice one Biggles, keep it coming, youre bringing back good memories.
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Old 04-14-2012, 06:48 AM   #261
biggles0449
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Joined: Sep 2008
Location: West Africa / UK
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Tuareg Rallye Day 3, Circuit Merzouga.

Tuareg Rallye Day 3, Circuit Merzouga.
Another early start and it was time to crawl out from our tents..all night long, the team truck behind our temporary home had been working on their countless bikes and putting the engines on the limiter with fantastic regularity! After the howling, barking, packs of dogs in Missour, then this was a blessing!
Everyone dragged themselves over to the hotel for breakfast, and to check yesterdays’ results / start times for today. Dax and I were starting 2 minutes apart, so, no doubt we would be catching each other at some point. Sean had a really good day yesterday and would be starting a couple of minutes behind me, with the rest of the team spread throughout the following rows.

The usual routines were handled in the paddock and I found myself drifting into my reclusive state again, as everyone was getting ready for the day ahead. Dax looked ready to go, so we rode together to the start of the day’s racing. Circuit Merzouga would be the first of the long, sandy days, with 230km on the chart, at first glance, it didn’t seem like it would be too much... but it was nearly all sand and dunes! Profi class were told to expect 8-10 hours in the saddle today!

We rode out onto the open plain, in front of the hotel, lining up for the start and collecting our timecards for the day. Gradually, the rest of the bike field started to arrive, as the cars were sent onto the special test. The time came and we were off, firing the bikes up and along some very fast, dusty trails. It was quite easy navigation to start with, even though the roadbook was a total lie for the first few directions! I have the feeling that the Orga were starting to play games with us at this point, as from now on, there were some very unnecessary tracks to follow. For those that were familiar with the quirks of the Rallye, then I’m sure they would have just fired straight through, ignoring all the funny parts. Dax and I had caught each other quite quickly, as we had taken different tactics, I was chasing Bearings and Dax was chasing roadbook instructions..stopping for a quick chat, I said we should just go on bearings to waypoints, using the roadbook if and when it tallied up..Small comments like 350km of dunes ahead made me think that today was going to be full of this kind of thing..

We found our way through the first section of the day and approached what Rainer had so happily referred to, as, “the labyrinth”. Having already seen the virgin forest and the oued of flowers on roadbooks, it was easy to dismiss this as another silly name. What a mistake that was! It seemed like we had just been dropped into the middle of all hell! As far as the eye could see, we were in a floodplain, which was heavily eroded with braided streams, roughly 3-4 feet deep, sometimes more and there was not one track that cut through! Dust was everywhere and it was impossible to see more than a few hundred meters away. Instructions on the roadbook had said to hit every waypoint or we would be punished today, so trying to follow a bearing in this chaos was nothing short of a bloody nightmare.. trying to endlessly trials ride a fully fuelled rally bike is not my idea of fun, but it is all part of the challenge, so in a masochistic kind of way, you do look back with fond memories of it!

Dax and I had, by now, been split up in this labyrinth, having taken slightly different paths at one point. I was doing my best to close in on the next waypoint and guarantee to have it tagged on the GPS. [The GPS would autoselect the next waypoint if you got to within 80-100m], The washouts kept turning every direction except where I wanted to go.. then, as I was parked up on the edge of a drop, trying to catch my breath and take a gulp of water, the dust cleared just long enough to catch a glimpse of a red flag above a couple of motorbikes. Thank Christ for that! I could see that first secret CP of the day and my perseverance had paid off, no penalties just yet!

Making my way as close as I could get to the flag and remembering the words of Zippy, always think about your next move, always park in a way to make leaving seamless. I parked the bike in a wide washout that looked like it would take me the right direction for the next waypoint and then scrambled across to get my card marked, before jumping back on the bike and getting as far from this bloody place as i could! It was a reasonably easy blast back towards Merzouga from here, with CP1 on the edge of the dunes at Erg Chebbi. I figure I lost about 20 minutes in the labyrinth, with doubling back and messing around, so there were quite a few bikes checked in already, but the real face of the Tuareg was about to show itself. 20 minutes was nothing in the greater scheme of things.

Diving into the small dunes at the front of Erg Chebbi, I immediately found cars and bikes scattered everywhere! John, who had come down with our team, was driving a red Toyota Hilux and as I came over a dune top, saw him and his navigator digging under the truck to try and get it back onto 4 wheels, from where it lay on its’ side, after attempting to crest a dune! A quick wave and a hello and with a twist of the throttle, I was gone, leaving them to their own battles..god I love being on a bike! It was early in the day and the dunes had only just started, so I wasn’t too worried about the amount of tracks I could see.. I was behind a little, but we had a long way to go. After a few stuipid drops at the start, I got my ‘sand head’ back on and settled into a wonderful rhythm. Flowing through the dunes, following the bearing given by my GPS, reading the tops and connecting spurs as far as i could.. When this wasn’t an option, I just treated it like a training ride with Patsy.. up and over! If it was in the way, don’t mess around, just get over it! I find myself riding alot better, when i’m relaxed and enjoying it, and if you’re not dropping the bike by pushing too hard, it’s surprising how much time and energy you conserve, by being smooth and maintaining a rhythm.
As I found myself getting deeper and deeper into the dunes, picking off successively bigger mountains of sand, the tracks on the ground became fewer and fewer. I continued chasing my GPS bearing until eventually pulling up on a secret Checkpoint round the back of the dunes, parked on top of tiny dune, made of really soft sand, was the Marshalls’ vehicle..Cameramen at the ready, to catch any daft moments from people getting out of shape on this supposedly simple, little climb! Blasting onwards to the next CP, I chose to stay away from the dunes, to make as much speed as possible on the hardpack, it was a longer path, but far quicker than the direct bearing. I had caught up with a Bowler from the Race 2 Recovery team and a couple of bikes, who were picking their way back into the edge of the dunes for the next CP, choosing to carry on with the higher speed tracks, I darted along on my own.. this worked fine until I got into a small set that had to be crossed.. just as I saw the Bowler blast across in front of me, on a lovely wide open track. Bugger! Oh well, it was worth a go, you don’t know unless you trust your instincts.

Pulling up at the CP, I was stunned to see Clayton there, looking like he’d just had a nice ride along in the sunshine. I was stunned. I’d been riding beautifully, no mistakes except for the labyrinth and I’d been cracking along where I could...how did he get here so quickly!? I remembering saying this to Clayton, as he was taking a drink next to the CP car, all I got in return was a confident smile and the Ozzie stuck it to me, with “ oh, you know, I heard a voice in my head.... I thought you were a man of the desert!?” bastard. Hahah I was spitting nails..he must have been tanking it. I didn’t stop for long, before making a move, and Clayton jumped on his bike to chase me down.. running along some crests and then taking on the dunes, once again, we made a beeline for the next waypoint.. After a few minutes I looked back, to see if Clayton was there, but no sign..he must be doing his own thing..I carried on, to within 4-500m of a waypoint, and then for some reason my GPS jumped to the next one, which I started to chase down.. I should have questioned it, and stopped to check the order of the waypoints , or even if I had tagged it. I didn’t. 4 or 5 kilometers of dunes later, I had a feeling something was wrong , when I started coming up behind really slow riders, before realising I had come back to one of the earlier waypoints from before the secret CP. Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks. What a stuipid mistake. Quickly taking stock of the situation, zoomed the GPS out, to correlate my next waypoint with the roadbook and could see I had at least 10 or 11km to get to the next CP, I found a really nice sand track running around the periphery of the dunes and absolutely pinned it. I was furious at myself for making such a cock-up, but no time to dwell, just deal with it. Looking across into the dunes, I could see a few bikes navigating their way through, as I flew along the outside.. at least I was making ground up.

Making it into CP3, I had been seeing very few tracks in the sand, which I was starting to become quite pleased about. I could see from the tracks and the way they picked their way through the dunes, that it was someone pretty good, riding alone, with another 2 riders that were riding together.. I kept on top of my GPS work, but was happy to chase these tracks down for a while, things were flowing beautifully. There were instructions in the roadbook, but all I was interested in today was chasing bearings. The trails were fantastic, really nice, flowing tracks and you could really open the bike up. I was absolutely buzzing by this point, the girls at one of the secret CP’s had told me I was one of the top 10. I couldn’t believe it. How the hell did that happen, after the mornings’ disasters?! I kept on doing my thing, not pushing any harder than I had been, and little by little, I was gaining on the bikes ahead of me. CP4 came into view, way out the back of Erg Chebbi, there was hardly any sign of activity, as I popped over the top of one of the last dunes, before the service area.. Picking my way along some hardpack, between the dunes, I could see a photographer shooting straight at me, as the back end started to break out on a corner.. feeling good I gave it more and got the back end drifting massively, with full lock on the bike. My best ever powerslide! I was chuckling away to myself, but really shouldn’t have been messing around like that..I gave the timecard in at the CP, before finding Martin with the service van.. I think he was a bit surprised to see me! John Freeman was at the van next to Martin and took off as soon as I pulled up.. Martin asked if I needed anything, fuelled my bike and said to me “youre doing really well, Ive only seen about 5 bikes so far” I was stunned, I could not believe what was happening here, Zippy and the others had said, “watch them drop like flies in the sand”, but this was unreal!

Not wanting to lose any ground, I took off after John into the dunes.. a couple of KM later, a bike that looked like him, was pulled over on the side of the track, fiddling with his bike as he waved me on.. felt sorry if it was John, but I was very happy to see another bike on the side of the track. These dunes were different to the ones of Erg Chebbi, they seemed alot softer and were only a few metres high..perfect for catching you out! Nipping up a small dune, to ride along its’ crest, I flew over the handlebars and ended up slumped like a sack of shit in the sand! What the hell just happened there?! Looking back, I could see my bike had buried both wheels, to the top of the tyres. Nothing would move. I couldn’t waggle the bars, I couldn’t push it over. The bike was well and truly stuck! If i hadn’t been so focussed on racing hard, I would have taken a picture as I’d never seen a bike so stuck! Getting down on my knees, I dug the sand from one side of the wheels so I could push it over. Eventually getting free and continuing, I dropped the bike a few more times in this crazy soft sand, before getting away onto some more trails away from the dunes. This is where it really got interesting. I recognised parts of the trail from training trips, so knew I could follow the bearing, without paying too much attention to the roadbook.. There was a small ridgeline that the roadbook said you needed to stay one side of, but with 10km+ to the next waypoint, I knew there would be a way through at some point, so stuck to the good track I was on and pinned it. There were absolutely no trails on the ground, I was way off course, but still making a perfect beeline for the waypoints. Choosing to slow down a little, rather than risk a mistake / crash, I continued hunting down the waypoints, until hitting some palmeries and a well known oued in the area. I had no idea where I stood for the day now, i was just hoping that my judgement had worked! Blasting along the oued on my own was awesome, some bikes from a tour were coming the other direction and gave a wave as they stopped to take some pictures. I was flat out and the back end of the bike was skipping all over the ruts, it must have looked awesome!

Eventually my GPS pointer was showing to go dead right, which was my signal to come away from the fast tracks and get back into the dunes, I knew all that was left, was to cross Erg Chebbi, once again and then it was onto the final test for Profi only. Cutting into the dunes, I could see another bike picking his way through, we shadowed each other for a while, but I could see he was struggling with his lines. I chose to stay high and ride the crests, while he was in the bowls, going up and over..must have been hard at this stage in the day! Eventually, I found my way through and could see the water tower getting closer and closer, I was really enjoying this now, 25km special section and then we were home and dry. Pulling into CP5 for my timecard stamp, the marshalls told me, that’s it, its over for you. I didn’t know what to say, what do you mean it’s over? I’m doing really well, there’s no way i’ve been timed out..It was then that the marshall told me to turn around and look at Erg Chebbi.. there was a pretty decent sandstorm blowing at the top, it had been windy and a bit grey, but i didn’t think it was too bad..The marshalls said the rest of the rally was cancelled and I should head back to the camp.

Pulling in, it was about 2pm and there was hardly a soul to see. John, with the hilux, was there, alongside his mechanic and co driver, having a drink, after being timed out earlier in the day, I was high as a kite on adrenaline and smiling from ear to ear. They came over to ask how everything was and couldn’t believe that Id finished the day already! I’m sure I must have sounded like I was on speed, barely stopping to breathe, I just flew into stories of the day, while they sat and drank their beer-poor buggers listening to all that shite! I gave Patsy a call, because the awning was trying to take off, turns out she was in a nearby hotel, having lunch with Chris and Jonny Maroc [owner of one of the longest running Moroccan bike tour companies and a total piss taker!] I got my standard greeting from him, “say hello to billy bunter” over the phone and Pats said they’d be over in a bit; so off I went, to calm down, have a shower and eat everything I could find!

Guys from the team started appearing into the camp, some timed out, others tired out and then some who had made it all the way through to CP5. This is where the confusion started. I was starting to get worried that I had been given the wrong info about the cancellation, Patsy phoned Martin and he said it was definitely still on.. what the hell was happening, was I gonna get shafted for not completing the Profi test? Turns out, it was the profi test that got cancelled, as it went deep into the dunes, but the main rally was to finish as planned.. I had a massive sigh of relief and got on with servicing my bike for the day. Oil change and filters were all it took, so it was all done and dusted nice and quickly. The tyres were still looking in good shape and the bike hadn’t been dropped badly, so overall, everything was really nice. News started filtering through that Wes Beane, who was winining the Rallye overall, had a big off today, clocking in at CP4, he had a 25 minute lead and binned it at speed, breaking his collarbone in the process. By the finish, he had a 5 minute lead, still intact and got waved onto the Profi loop, gotta respect that.

Completing the last sections of the day with a broken collarbone is not something I would want to do, as none of it was easy riding! Respect to Wes. Haha, ok, that’s enough blowing smoke up his arse.. now i’m just glad there’s one less rider in front of me!
The usual admin and banter carried on as everyone came in to the camp, before we knew it, the briefing was upon us, and then, the opening of the red boxes. I nearly lost my jeans in the scrum as people were diving in trying to grab all the best stuff, some, shamelessly turning up with carrier bags.. for me, my daily diet was Texas Salad, packets of salami and Haribo, when I could get some! All very easy to pack into your jacket, easy to eat, and digest on the trails.

As usual, the results wouldn’t come out until the early hours of the morning, so, after a couple of beers and dinner, it was time to get my head down. Waking up again in the middle of the night, I wandered over for a look at the results...7th in Profi!!!! I could not believe my eyes, I knew I’d had a good day, but coming in with less than 5 hours on the clock was fantastic. I was absolutely stoked. With this, I went back to bed, smug in the knowledge, that I’d nailed it!

Next challenge would be the infamous King Stage, a day id heard far too much about, so I needed plenty of rest.
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Old 04-14-2012, 07:08 AM   #262
max medic
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Tuareg

Great write up keep it going!!

When I did the rally last year I did not let my gps auto route on the dune sections as I found it could jump to the next nearest CP rather than the one I wanted, so manualy selected all my way points from the road book, it is a bit slower but I hit every single CP and SCP on the rally. I heard that some guys add extra way points to the route to make sure it keeps on routing in the correct direction.

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Old 04-15-2012, 04:22 AM   #263
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Tuareg rallye, day 4, Kingstage.

Tuareg rallye, day 4, Kingstage.

So this is it, the big one. The day that everyone, has been telling me about. The Kingstage.

Feeling well rested and a little more calm, after yesterdays’ antics, I wake to our daily alarm call, being played from the roof of the hotel; by some huge speakers.. It had become a daily ritual to rise at 0630 to the melody of “Sonne” by the German Death Metal band, Rammstein! I think if you ask anyone [except Patsy!] that goes to the Tuareg, they will all tell you about this, and they will all tell you, in a crazy kind of way, they love it! A quick shower and I head to the breakfast room inside the hotel, to meet up with the rest of the guys. Already knowing the results from yesterday, I casually strolled past the crowds of racers leering at the boards, to find their name as high up the list as possible.

Grabbing my daily staple of potato pancakes, a couple of boiled eggs and some laughing cow cheese, I went to sit with everyone at the long table. There was a buzz this morning, as everyone was still sharing stories from the day before. A lot of the team had done really well, Vince [43rd] Dax [29th] and Sean [32nd] had all knocked out some cracking results. Jamie was still Mr Consistent at 56th, but when I see him ride in the sand each day on this Rallye and then think back just 3 weeks, to the first time he had ever ridden a bike in the desert; I can only be impressed. We spent a week riding together on a tour of the area, with Patsy, Chris and some Portuguese riders, including a journalist from Moto Vert. Jamie’s one of those guys you look at and think, god I hope he’s no good at riding a bike, because he looks seriously fit. Thankfully, at the time, he wasn’t! We talked a lot that week, about riding mostly. Having been in his position about 15 months prior to that, I assured him he would not recognize himself by the end of the tour. Well, I certainly didn’t expect him to improve as much as he did in just 5 days! Even when I was racing off with Chris as fast as we dared, Jamie and Patsy were never more than a few minutes behind. If I’m honest, it was actually quite annoying! Now, here he is, cracking on in the rallye and loving every minute of it. Ok, maybe he’s not as flat out fast, as Clayton and Sean who had been riding together most of the week, but in true tortoise and hare style, Jamie would be the one riding by with a grin, as they were overshooting corners, or getting lost after making navigation errors.. overall, there wasn’t a lot between them, considering their very different approaches.

Current Desert Rose ranking after 3 stages:

Moto Profi
18 Dax Edgley
33 Vince Ewan
40 Jamie Smith
42 Ben Norman
45 Howard Perry
49 Denis Roume
54 Sean Bolger
68 Clayton Jacobsen
77 Ludo Bois
82 Chris Barwick
89 Andrew Plumpton
91 Matt Nuttall
92 Mike Robertson

Moto Amateur >50
2 Gordon Macpherson
3 Andrew Lawrence

Moto Amateur
9 Duncan Ure


A couple of people asked if I’d seen my result for the day, I couldn’t hide the grin, so just said something like, “yeah, it wasn’t bad was it?!” I’m crap at playing it cool.. Zippy turned up and asked how I’d done, so I gave him the news and I could tell from his face as he answered, that I’d done something good. That’s all the encouragement I needed and we carried on to chat about the day ahead. I was a little apprehensive about this one, I knew it was the day that everyone had been anticipating. Since my first trip to Morocco, Id heard stories of Kingstage and just how tough it was, to finish. The Le Mans style start, the endless dunes and the tight times to make each lap, plus the fact that it was warming up; meant today was going to be an arse kicker.

Breakfast came and went, everyone drifted off to prepare themselves and once again, I headed off to the start with Dax, as we psyched ourselves up, for todays’ challenge. It was quite a long ride out to get to the holding area..a large open expanse, just in front of some fairly small looking dunes over by a place called Rissani. Now, I had already been in these dunes a while back and knew that these innocent, small looking things were not to be taken lightly! Small they may be, but they’re all made from talcum powder and they were about to kick our collective butts! There was a very good reason why we had until 1330, to complete the first lap. We were all lining up in the car park, watching as the race cars formed a long line, stretching a couple of hundred metres, as they faced up to the dunes. The bikes were all collected over at one end, picking up their timecards and taking in the atmosphere. This was going to be madness and everybody knew it! Crowds of service teams had gathered on the tops of the dunes, to watch the impending chaos..the vultures were circling, the only thing missing was some tumbleweed!

Music was playing loudly, from one of the Orga cars and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. The roadbook said to go straight ahead from where we stood, taking the dunes head on. There only appeared to be about 3 or 4 obvious places to get through and with all these race cars lined up, with their blood pumping, it meant we were going to see some carnage very quickly! I could not wait for this! My usual pre race jitters were firmly packed away as we all stood by, waiting for Rainer to drop the flag. 5,4,3,2…everyone held their breath, 1, the engines of all the race cars burst into life as sand and gravel flew everywhere! The cars were off and there was no way they were going to be second into the funnels! It really was a real life Wacky Races, Bowlers, Hiluxes, Landcruisers and the most insane buggy any of us had ever seen.. an R1 powered buggy, with a pilot that only knew one speed, absolutely flat out. All the time. He had become a standing joke on the Rallye, as everyone knew he was coming before we could even see him. In this case, he just floored it and got the holeshot, going into the funnel. This was awesome to watch! Total chaos was unfolding in front of our eyes, as cars were getting beached, stuck, rolled .. everything. Some had only gone a few hundred metres and already they were out and digging! I could only imagine what was going to happen when nearly 200 bikes did the same thing in a little under 15 minutes!

The bikes were instructed to make their way to the start. I was already on my bike, so pinned it across the plain away from the start, to give the bike a damned good clear out, before stopping it for the Le Mans start, unlike the cars who had a dead engine start, we had a to be 10 metres back with engines off, so I needed my bike to fire first go! I managed to bag a good place over to the left, which was closest to the hordes of vultures lining the dunes, but more importantly, the best looking line through. Now I went into my world, I could see Clayton riding the length of the line up with his GoPro camera, filming the scene. I wasn’t about to get distracted, I needed to get away clean and catch the sand while it was still not completely destroyed.. Rainer gives the order to stand ready, the flag goes up, everyone stares, fixed on the flag, it drops and we’re off! I jump on my bike and she fires straight away, battling with the guys around me, Moto-x style, we tear up through the funnel fighting for position. Looking back, this was totally pointless, but in the heat of battle, you had to have the holeshot! I got a great start and gunned it straight for the first waypoint.

The dunes were pretty tough to get through and I think Rainer knew this. He had put all the way points in there, so we must go up and over every dune, no riding ridges on this special test! It was absolute carnage, bikes were getting dropped, guys were tearing off, sand and dust everywhere. I hit the first waypoint and then, nothing. The GPS did nothing. I started to freak out, why’s my bloody GPS not selecting points? Frantically I was poking buttons, trying to remember how to manually select the next one. Moving on, I tagged the next couple of points, but kept losing time as I had to stop and manually pick the next. I saw Dax coming towards me and said, he was calm and just said, OK, lets get to the next point and Ill have a look..we got there and he went through my GPS with me, neither of us could find the issue. So, picking the next point, we got back on track. Something happened here, but we got split up again, I carried on and got into a right old pickle in some silly soft dunes. Bikes were passing me all the time and I was starting to lose my composure. I needed to get this fixed. This was when Vince, the GPS whizz came by. I shouted to him and said my GPS wasn’t selecting and he laughed, like only Vince does, and shouted back “Good!” I think that was payback for my leaving him in the desert 2 days earlier! I took stock and decided to totally reset my route for the day, importing the waypoints again and hoping it worked. Thankfully, something went right and it started to auto select again, so now it was time to kick some arse.

I gave it everything to get out of these dunes as fast as I could manage. They were catching me out regularly, I was getting really hot and out of breath, I needed to find a rhythm and chill out. There is nothing easy about dragging around a rally bike fuelled with 30 litres of petrol. Luckily, I was nearly out of the dunes and now faced some open blasting along gravelly trails. I picked a few riders off and then had to stop to put my goggles back on, because of the dust. It seemed we were back onto the roadbook again and everyone was following it to the letter. I came to a t-junction by some power lines, with the bearing arrow on my GPS saying go straight forwards, whilst the roadbook was taking us 90 degrees to the right. I didn’t trust it, looking out to the horizon, I could see trails of dust stretching across to the right and then hooking back, to come along the far horizon in front of me. I quickly scrolled through the roadbook to make sure there were no waypoints along there and seeing it was clear until the next CP, I decided to just gun it along the GPS bearing. The track looked good, following underneath the powerlines and no one else was using it. If this worked, I was going to make up loads of time. Absolutely flying along this trail, I could see that it was going to work and I was feeling pretty good about trusting my instincts. I was trying to be careful, because I had no idea what was coming up, so couldn’t afford to get too complacent. Then, coming over a small rise, I saw the track ahead..it was about 5 feet lower than the track I was on. All I could think was “ohhh shit, this is bad”, braking was going to put me out of shape and risk god knows what kind of nasty crash, the only thing I could do, was exactly what Zippy had spent so long, teaching to Toby, Jago and I.. preload and pop. Lifting the front wheel, as I blindly launched off this dropoff, I could only hope there was a clean landing area below and thankfully there was. No time to slow down, I kept the bike open and thought just how bloody lucky I was to get through that. I slowed slightly for the rest of the shortcut!

Coming into the CP from a totally different angle, to just about all the other riders, I realised just how much time I had made up. Ludo was at the CP, which was a bit of a surprise, but as it turned out, he’s pretty useful in the sand and can ride like a demon when he wants to. Considering the awful start I had, this was excellent news.

Pulling away from the CP, the route took us towards Merzouga, where we cut back in front of the hotels, passing the CP finish area, from the day before, we were about to hit the big boys again! Following the GPS through the smaller dunes and around the side of Erg Chebbi, we began the criss-crossing route that would take us all over the area for the next few hours. It seemed like forever, getting through these smaller dunes, choosing to stay higher up, rather than battling the small dunes on the edge of the Erg seemed like the right thing to do. Before long, I was making up ground on the riders in front, while they battled a longer route, with more individual dunes to contend with. It was a gamble, backing myself to take on the big dunes, but for now, it was paying off. The occasions that I didn’t quite crest a big one, there was no time to dwell, a quick look around and pick the next best option, don’t waste time going back down for another go at it. It’s something I’ve learned from a few trips to the desert now, sooner or later, you will get the connecting path you were after.
We had been told that there were 16 checkpoints/secret checkpoints to hit today, on the 4 laps of the Profi route. With each successive lap becoming shorter, but tighter on time, to complete, it meant we were really going to have our work cut out. Navigating through the dunes to the first secret CP, on the back side of Erg Chebbi, I was making really good time. The first CP was located outside of the duneset, in a small group of palms, hidden from view, until you were on top of it. I was firing along on my bearing, thinking, great we’re doing well, and then within a few hundred metres of the CP, my GPS autoselected the next waypoint, not knowing whether I had been within range and forgetting that this was due to be a CP, I turned to follow the bearing. Something inside me was saying I’d made a mistake, so I stopped to double check the GPS and the nearest waypoint, which was in fact a CP. Bugger it, not again.. this GPS business is by now starting to really annoy me, but there’s nothing that can be done about it for now. I turned and gassed the bike along the trail, as the CP came into view. A few bikes were coming directly at me, so I stayed off the main path, to let them through. It looked like Chris Porter and Fabian, 2 guys who I had been seeing a lot of so far. Pulling into the CP, I quickly got my card stamped and doubled back to try and close the guys down.

I knew I needed to stay wide of the smaller dunes and take advantage of the hardpack tracks out the back..however, in the heat of the moment, I ended up chasing my bearing too accurately. Getting drawn into the dunes, to the point of no return, I was making good progress, but it wasn’t until I looked about 1km to my right and saw bikes flying along the hardpack, that I realized my mistake. It was too far to cut across and the sand was too soft to consider heading over to join them. I chose to stick on my path and hope there was a way out soon enough. Fortunately, they were all heading to a waypoint that directed them back into the dunes, so I didn’t lose a lot of time overall. Weaving my way through the dunes, as they gradually grew, we closed in on the central dunes at the Northern end of the Erg. There were so many ways through here, but if you remembered your way around, there were a couple of nice sections, passing by some Bedouin camps, where you could make up a little time. By this time, I was paranoid about missing secret checkpoints, so very often I was double checking every time the GPS selected the next, even if it meant doubling back for a few hundred metres.. A minute or two now, was better than 2-4 hours penalties later.

The route through the middle section of the lap was quite tiring, as it took us through new parts of the Erg, that hadn’t been ridden this week. Lots of climbs and some monsters to get up and over, if that was the route you were on! Slap in the middle of the dunes at a CP were the girls from the Orga, who were like an oxygen shot at altitude! Always happy and chirpy, it was a welcome relief from the battle you had just come from, even if only for 30 seconds. Leaving the CP and heading off in what turned out to be a cloverleaf loop, I found myself back at the same CP with the girls, now I really got concerned. I had to ask if somehow I’d made a mistake and picked up the wrong waypoints, they just smiled and said they were covering more than one job today! Sneaky buggers at the Orga, I could only smile and blast off on my bike again.. hunting down the next of the waypoints.

I’d made quite a lot of mistakes on this first lap, but I think that was the case for most people and the plan from the Orga. The 1330 cut off for lap 1 was definitely there for a reason. I knew time was getting tight for the end of this lap and I was giving it the best I could, to pick my way back across to the end of the lap, where CP finish was yesterday. It seemed endless, climbing and climbing, heading up successively larger dunes, until, cresting the top of one, I knew I was in the middle and could see where I needed to head. 1 last waypoint to tag on the way and it was quick blast through the smaller dunes and into the service area at the end of lap 1. Missing the timing tent, I circled looking for it and pulled in to hand over my card; before searching out our team van. Patsy and Martin were there, along with a few others who had found it too much. I was feeling ok, but knew I had my work cut out, Id made it into CP with about 10 minutes to spare, that was not a good sign, but at least I had made it. I asked how I was doing and was told that Clayton had already been through a few minutes before.I don’t know what it is about me, but I cannot stand to have people I know in front of me in the desert! Back home on an Enduro, ill take it, but out here, this is where I feel is my riding home. I was not amused! Patsy told me, as she did each time, to “stay smooth, keep it together, It’s a long day ahead”.

A quick refuel and top up with water and I was away, ripping back into the dunes to find the next sequence of waypoints. By this time there were tracks in every direction, so there was no following to be done! Sticking to my tactic of staying high, I got out the back again and found the path I wanted for the CP, it didn’t look like many people had found this one, and I was flat out along it..the guys further in didn’t stand a chance! Pulling into the CP through the trees, rather than from in front of them, I got some odd looks, but knew I was doing well. Rather than chasing the bearing as I had done the first lap, I got back onto the fast sand track that ran around the Erg, by now, I knew I had a long distance to the waypoint at the Northern end of the Erg and I could afford the track to drift away from my goal, so long as I had the throttle wide open. This tactic really started to pay off as I could see bikes further in to the dunes and I was singing along, back end skipping ruts, front wheel lifting over lumps and bumps, everything was feeling good.

Cutting back through the dunes, I had caught up with Chris Porter and Fabian, it had been a game of cat and mouse for the last hour or two and now it seemed we were on a similar pace. Working to our own plans, we would constantly diverge and then cross paths, or meet again at CPs, this was a theme that would continue for the rest of the day. But it was nice to know Id caught up to guys that had been in or around the top 20 most of the week. We reached the centre of the dunes again and seeing the girls again for the obligatory hello/goodbye a couple of times, it was time to chase over the top. My energy was really starting to drop and I knew it. Panting hard, from dropping the bike cresting dunes, I was starting to get into a tailspin. The more tired I became, the more energy I used correcting mistakes, I needed to eat. At the time it was really hard taking the decision to stop, but I remembered back to something Toby had said about one of the early days in Dakar; both he and Jago had forgotten to eat and energy levels nose dived as a result. I stopped on top of a dune and watched as Chris and Fabian rode on, gulping down some water and trying to eat a packet of ‘Shot Blox’ [jelly squares of energy gel, much better than the packet gels, which are sticky and really make a mess]. Within a minute or two I had my breath back and started to feel a bit perkier, from this moment I made it my mission to keep a tight control on my intake of food and water, I wasn’t going to pick up penalties because of something so simple as not eating.

Jumping back onto my bike, it wasn’t long before I had caught up with Chris and Fabian again, as they were taking slightly longer routes and Chris was battling with the weight of the big 690RR, on some sections. We shadowed each other, but taking very different approaches through the rest of the lap, until pulling up on the final CP, back in the service area. I pulled up on the Desert Rose pit, after having my timecard stamped and by now, there were a lot more faces sitting around in various states. I was feeling pretty shagged out, but everyone was really supportive and gave a lot of encouragement, Jamie helped fill my camelback, Martin and Patsy gave my bike a once over and refuel and Chris gave a little advice. I ate as many biscuits as I could, drank some coke and immediately felt energized. I had made it into the end of lap 2 with 20 minutes to spare, picking up a lot of time round the back of the dune on my lovely fast tracks. I felt like I had this fully under control now, making sure I loaded the waypoints for lap 3, I fired the engine and tore off into the dunes for another go.

I was starting to feel really good, maybe it was all that sugar, maybe it was seeing so many people all over the paddock, that had been timed out, or given up, but whatever it was, it gave me wings! The laps were getting shorter, but that didn’t mean they were getting any easier! GPS bearings taking me into virgin territory with the new route, there weren’t a lot of tracks to see. The usual blast around the back of the Erg and crossing paths with Chris and Fabian again, we shadowed each other for a bit. They crested a dune in front of me, slowing to check their direction, I dived off to the right and got caught out on the face of a dune. Not carrying enough speed, I could feel the bike slow just before the top, I wasn’t about to get stuck in a bowl with these guys watching, so jumped off the bike before it lost momentum and gave it full throttle, pushing at the same time..it seemed far longer than I’m sure it was, but the bike got there and the engine was screaming! I looked across to see Fabian punching the air and letting out a big “Wooohooooooo!”. I could only laugh and watch as they rode off once again, this is what it’s all about..camaraderie with people you barely know, when you’re all facing the same battles. Bloody brilliant stuff and as good as an energy bar for at least a few minutes! I made sure to get some more jelly and water into me, before moving off again, there was still a long way to go and I didn’t want to be crashing my energy levels again.
I had been riding most of the dune section, as I always try to do, with no goggles on. The extra airflow makes a huge difference, but you always pay the price if you’re coming up on other riders or the weather turns.. round the back of the Erg, we were getting some rain and when you’re up well in excess of 100km/h, rain on your eyeballs is nothing short of agony! Squinting and trying to angle my helmet for maximum deflection means you don’t see too much as you’re tanking along, hoping you can remember the track clearly! The rain soon passed, as did the speed, cutting back into the dunes for another bash at zig-zagging through the middle. A couple more cheery hello’s from the CP girls in the middle and it was time to take on some of the biggest dunes in the entire Erg.. I’m sure I must have been on a totally different approach to this, than everyone else, because I saw no tracks, as I went up and over. There were a couple of cars, circling to build speed for a second go at a huge climb, and I slipped past, pinning the bike all the way to the top. Couldn’t let the cars watch a biker fail! Cresting over the top, I could see that this was not even close to being the highest dune in my way, so I knew it was going to get interesting and pretty quickly. I gave it everything to get up and over the next one, just about making it, by jumping off and screaming the engine again. Taking a few seconds at the top to compose myself and get some water, the view was incredible. I was on top of one of the largest dunes in the Erg, with nothing around me and the view to the service area was far off in the distance. This 3rd lap was going to make me earn it! Pulling away from the top, and riding down into a dusty bowl, I was really nervous of losing momentum so kept it wide open..maybe not the best tactic, as, even with a steering damper, my bike got into a small tank slapper, which I managed to hold onto and keep slapping away, until the upward slope. A big sigh of relief that I hadn’t come off or got stuck, I chased out the last few waypoints before bagging that beautiful feeling of hitting the end of lap CP.

I was ecstatic, checking in with 10-15 minutes spare, I rode over to the team, so chuffed with myself, everyone was giving words of encouragement and saying how well I was doing, Patsy and Martin did their fantastic job of sorting my bike out for me, while I got some water back inside me. Then they dropped me with the news that Matt had walked out of the dunes. At the time I thought, ok, is he hurt? Did his bike break? I just asked, “why?” and nothing could have prepared me for what came next. Matt had walked out of the dunes, for about 3-4km, with his GPS, because he had become tired. He had abandoned his bike to start heading back and decided it was too hot and stripped to his underwear, nonchalantly walking into the service area in his kecks. I could only imagine how funny this must have looked, especially to the crowds of tourists and locals that had gathered to watch the race.

Matt the legend, had done it again. He never failed to surprise me and it is true, laughter is the best medicine, as I immediately felt ready to take on the final lap of the day. You can only laugh at situations like this. I loaded my next set of GPS waypoints and took off with a big smile on my face, with the words of Patsy fresh in my mind, ”keep it smooth”.

Buzzing on a high, knowing that all I had to do was complete one final lap, I flew off into the dunes, banging the bike into some bermed corners and loving it. I knew I was riding too quickly and then looked up at an approaching lump.. only a small one, but the bike tracks only went up it.. then reappeared a few feet later. No time to react, I hit this jump and took off, feet up in the air like superman, hands on the bars, I somehow landed it standing on the seat with one leg! What a bloody lucky escape that was, I’d have felt like a right dick not finishing today, for some stuipid mistake like that. Time to slow down and get smoother again, as the route took me into some new dunes, which seemed to be the softest of the day, since the GP start in Rissani. I was really struggling to keep the bike going, failing on so many climbs, I lost loads of time and my energy levels plummeted. This was not good, I had to finish today, I’d done so well, there was no way I wanted any penalties today. Stopping for a minute or two, I got my breath back, ate some jelly and drank some water. Starting again, I took control of my riding and the lap became a nice flow of duneriding. Each successive CP the guys were saying, “well done, you’ve made it, see you at the finish!” I was starting to buzz.. tiredness didn’t matter anymore, I was nearly home and dry. Diving back into the centre of the dunes, for one last rendezvous with the girls, I see Chris and Fabian again, as they head off to the finish CP.

I rode up to the girls and got the fatal words, “well done, you’ve made it, the next one is the finish!”. With this, I found myself relaxing and riding along with a massive smile on my face, I was so glad this was almost over and so happy Id managed to complete it. Almost. Following a path that Id taken a few times that day, I went slightly further up the side of the dune to contour around it, which was where it all went so horribly wrong. Coming over the crest with a little too much speed to correct my direction I was face with the most evil looking sand trap I’d seen all week. I ended up at the bottom of it and lost momentum. There was nothing I could do to get out. Stripping down to just my boots and trousers, I did everything to get that bloody bike out of there, until spots were coming in front of my eyes and I was running out of water. It was just after 5pm and I had a little under 30 minutes to get to the finish. I could not believe this was happening. Having spent the last of my energy trying to get the bike out, I decided I was not going to make it in time, so climbed to the top of the nearest dune to call Patsy and give her the good news. I was absolutely gutted, all that hard work undone by one silly mistake.

Patsy said to send her GPS coordinates and she would arrange something, time passed by and 2 Berber guys turned up on a quad, offering to help, just as I could hear Patsy coming up on her big 690. Doing a deal with these guys to help out, Patsy jumped on my bike and screamed the engine to get up the backslope as far as possible, the guys helped turn the bike and steady it as Patsy eyed up the exit. Flipping it up into 2nd to avoid spinning the rear wheel, she gave it hell to get out of that pit and the bike shot off, losing traction quickly on the upslope, but just about making it over the top. The flood of relief that came over me was massive. All I could do was thank Patsy and the guys and start getting my kit on again. I was absolutely shagged out and still had about 10km of dunes to go, before the CP finish. Riding carefully with Patsy, I managed to drag my arse back to the timing tent and hand in my card. By this time, it was after 6pm and the Orga had been trying to find out where I was, as I had gone missing between the final CP and the finish. Holding on at the tent to explain what had happened and wait while the search was called off, I just stood there feeling dejected, but very glad to be out of the dunes again.

I rode back to the camp, absolutely exhausted and sat with the others who were all being really good, with a lot of support. It turned out there were only 18 people that completed the Kingstage and I came 19th, with a 2hr penalty at the very end. I started to feel a lot better about how I had done today and after a bit of food and a very well deserved beer, went off for a shower and to rest a little. Patsy, Zippy and Martin were awesome, Patsy said she would do my bike for me tonight, for doing so well, Zippy, who’s training as a massage therapist, gave me a fantastic back and shoulder massage, much to the cheers and piss taking of the team when they found out! I felt so much better after this and it really did bring me back to life.. Zippy is going to be a valuable asset on future rallies! Dinner was a bit of a blur and I got my head down reasonably early. Tonight I was not going to be getting up to find out the results!

Waking up to the Rammstein alarm clock, I wandered over to have a look at the results and start time, for Moto-x day, before going over to see everyone at the truck. Patsy had done a lovely job on my bike, everything was gleaming, the bike had been polished with silicon and it stood proudly under the awning; as all the other bikes were parked in a line in the sand. I felt like a champion! Patsy gave me a knowing smile and said, “that’s for my star rider” I was stoked. Who would have thought when I first phoned Patsy a couple of years before, to talk about getting into biking and then a year later; when I finally had the chance to get up to her training school, that these words would be coming in my direction! To me, that was the pinnacle of the last 18 months, training and riding.

Looking at the results for the day, I could see that people had picked up huge amounts of penalties and as predicted by Zippy and Chris earlier in the week, the Rallye had been won or lost in the dunes. I had bagged 19th, Chris and Fabian, who I was right behind, got 15th. I ended up with 2 hours of penalties and this fired me up the leaderboard from 42nd to 20th overall and 2nd British rider, I was absolutely over the moon! All that hard work and it had finally started to pay off. Even with this, I still kept thinking back to those 2 stuipid mistakes I had made, which cost me 6 hours and a top 10 ranking at this stage. But then, that’s easy to say.

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Old 04-15-2012, 04:35 AM   #264
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That was a long one!

Sorry about how long this entry was, Day4 was by far the most intense day of riding I have ever done and there was so much to recall, that I had to get it all down. The next few days will be shorter!
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Old 04-15-2012, 05:53 AM   #265
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[IMG]http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e150/biggle[IMG]

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Old 04-15-2012, 03:34 PM   #266
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Brilliant account of events.
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:44 AM   #267
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Chris Porter the owner of Mojo and ex multiple downhill mountain biking World Champion Fabien Barel take on the Tuareg Rallye armed with a couple of GoPros, this is what they captured. Fabien came 12th overall with Chris just behind in 13th! Credit: Mojo Suspension | Tom Wheeler
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:02 PM   #268
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Biggles 0449: You don´t need them to be shorter, you just need to keep ém comming!
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Old 04-22-2012, 02:33 AM   #269
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Hahah thanks guys, Ill have some more time to scribble some memories down in the next couple of days..been a very busy week this week, but 2 days of sitting on planes and in hotels coming up.. so should be able to get to the end of the Rallye! [I hope!]

cheers, will post more soon
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Old 05-03-2012, 03:28 AM   #270
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And what happened on the way back to Nador
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