bike 153 - Bolivia is Home, Sweet Home for a very shaken Danny Danny Nogales, a rider from Cochabamba, is discovering the Dakar. Between Jujuy and Uyuni he also discovered all its difficulties… “The day took a turn for the worse when we were still in Argentina. On the link section, I overtook a vehicle, but when I pulled back in I didn't see that there was a lane divider and I fell onto the tarmac”. In so doing, Danny Nogales got a hefty taste of how tough the Dakar can be for a first-timer. He had already set the bar high by enrolling in the bikes without assistance category. “It's an economic choice,” he explains. However, the Jujuy-Uyuni stage is already engraved in his memory: “I've seen it all today: rain, hail, fesh-fesh; I've been cold, I've fallen, my knee is really hurting now that the temperatures have dropped. I'm going to see the medical team”. However, it is not his priority. Still a little dazed by what has happened to him over the last hours, Danny removes his boots and thinks about what he needs to do, whilst sat on his trunk. “In the end, I think I'll start with the navigation unit that got damaged during the crash. I'll probably have to spend at least three hours on it…” It is 19.00 and the sky above Uyuni is starting to cloud over. Danny Nogales still has not finished with the consequences of the marathon stage. Fortunately, he is back in his home country: “The welcome the crowds gave was very moving. There were a lot more people than in previous years. It was wonderful…” - bike 030 - An incredible welcome Eighteenth to finish the stage at Uyuni, Xavier de Soultrait is not likely to forget the welcome from the Bolivian spectators. The Frenchman could not have hoped for better to breathe new life into his Dakar after a laborious start to the rally. Xavier de Soultrait does not need to visit the small market in Uyuni to bring back a souvenir from Bolivia. At the finish of the marathon stage on Thursday, the Yamaha rider received a necklace made of coca leaves as well as a flag and hat in the colours of Evo Morales' country. “I adore this country,” says the man from the Auvergne region of France. “There is genuine passion for the Dakar. We were even welcomed to the finish by the President Evo Morales and Miss Bolivia! The last part was a bit tricky with all the people alongside the tracks. You had to be on your guard”. Xavier loves Bolivia and Bolivia appears to love him. “Last year, I was one of the few competitors to cross the Uyuni salt pans without any problems. This time, I took advantage of the stage to give a boost to my performance after a rather complicated start. I flooded my engine during the prologue and it seems like it has been an albatross around my neck for three days. When I was last to leave Villa Carlos Paz, I veered off the tracks and fell due to being in the dust behind somebody and I damaged my navigation instruments”. The first marathon stage on the rally on which he finished in eighteenth position has thus enabled Xavier de Soultrait to bounce back. “I lost thirty-five minutes at the start of the rally and I need to claw them back if I want to achieve my goal which is to finish in the top ten in Rosario”. - bike 137 - Like being at the cinema Behind the handlebars of his Honda CRF 450, Rob Smits relished the stage between San Salvador de Jujuy and Uyuni. With its superb tracks and a setting worthy of the cinema, it was nothing short of amazing for the Dutchman. “It was quite simply superb”. This is how Rob Smits summarised the fifth stage of the Dakar 2016. “We rode through some sumptuous landscapes and as we rose to an altitude of more than 4,500 metres, the view was wonderful. After the rain and mud of the first days, I really appreciated it. It was a long day during which I rode without taking risks because you can't change anything on the bike during a marathon stage. So you had to get to the finish without any problems”. Although the climb rhymed with headaches and other inconveniences for some competitors, the Dutch rider reached the bivouac as fresh as a daisy. “I prepared for this Dakar like a madman,” he admits. “I rode a lot, did plenty of sport and I worked on altitude problems at a special centre where we were doing exercises in a low oxygen atmosphere. In the Netherlands, we are below sea level, so you have to find a solution some how”. In a cheerful mood, Rob enjoyed the stage right until the finish. “It was great to see all the people who were waiting for us at Uyuni,” he continues. “All these flags, all the people who wanted to take photos of us… I'm not ready to forget this day for a long time."