Sunday, 27 April 2014

Libya Rally

This is my biggest challenge to date. Long liaisons and specials. 2,400 kilometres of riding from Fez to Agadir.

Day 1 - Long day with typical Moroccan terrain. 4.00am start - 6.30pm finish. Had to change the Road book 2 times during the day - lots of navigation! Spent most of the day at a very gentle pace as I normally do on the 1st day. Started racing on the 2nd special mixing it up with many cars, some bikes, and the fastest truck I've ever encountered. Scary but thrilling! The only part on the bike that failed was the steering damper when the front wheel lodged itself in a washout at high speed trying to find a way passed a car.

Day 2 - Time to start racing. Very quick morning and passed many riders. Very exciting riding and all going to plan until I hit the dunes. After 5k the clutch fluid boiled over, the fuel was boiling over, and I was starring to feel sick. It was hot and my heart rate was going up and the breathing was getting shorter. I stopped to rest a moment but the heat was unbearable. Battled on for 24k but eventually the inevitable crash happened. Woke up with the bike on top of me on the downside of a dune, and desperately tried to get out from beneath the bike. I was riding alone and there was no way to warn others of my predicament. Got free and then passed out again! Some cars found me (amazingly they didn't flatten me) and phoned for help. They managed to get me conscious and remove my gear. I then threw up which is the 1st thing I remember - Nice! Breathing was a struggle and I just wanted to sleep again. Long story short I ended up in a helicopter. The medics got fluids in me intravenously. I had heard that many riders had suffered with the heat and didn't finish. A driver and rider were in hospital with various injuries. The mechanics fixed my bike after the sweeper truck picked it up, and I did my road books hoping that the next day I could ride.

Day 3 - Was allowed to ride but only on the condition I did not do the 1st 20k of dunes! I protested but to no avail. The doctor and the organisations decision was final! Thanked the medic, and headed out. 1st part of the day was the usual Moroccan tracks, where the only time you saw a rock was when you hit it! No working clutch again, tank leaking in 2 places, and the steering damper is merely an ornament! Today was supposed to be at a take it gentle day but after the 1st fuel stop there was some 70 kilometres of flat wide open terrain. Had to keep the wire tight! It was lovely. Arrived early but tired. I'm still struggling with the heat. Now have a long afternoon sorting out the bike issues. Just heard another of are team has crashed heavily and in hospital with concussion!

Day 4 - 250k of rocks, which included trials/enduro like sections. This was broken up by a good stint in the dunes around lunchtime. Navigating today was sometimes difficult. Many times I thought to myself "surely they don't want me to ride over that!" No working clutch again but I'm kinda getting used to it! No joke - it was that bumpy today, I lost a filling! The dunes were great and definitely my fav part of the day. A sand storm gained momentum after I completed the dunes and visibility was really poor. I hear they later shut the dune section down for safety. Finished in very good time today and I generally feel good. There have been a few crashes resulting in bruised ribs and a swollen ankle. It's now dark, the sand storm is still happening so well have to service our bikes first thing in the morning. Some vehicles spending the night in the dunes. 440k tomorrow. 340 of those is the special.

Day 5 - Day started with a sea of rocks to get through. After 50k of this I had no feeling in my hands. Fast bit next, then sandy pistes, then the dunes. After was pretty much flat out with some dry river beds thrown in to keep us awake! Finished in good time again. Bike needs some TLC. One rider has broken his wrist coming off the back of a dune. Finished 14th today and now placed 20th overall.

Had time to reflect on the 2nd day incident in the dunes. No working clutch didn't help but no excuse. Really stupid of me too push on like that. The heat was like standing in front of an open oven. Was so determined to get a good result and finish the last 6k! Lesson learnt!

Day 6 - Flying! Caught up very quickly with other riders only to have the bike start playing up and then finally break down just before CP2. Checked the usual things but guessing it's the fuel injector. Was at CP2 for 2 hours. A few riders bailed out at this point and headed back to base via tarmac. Meanwhile the rider (Alex) in 1st place in the rally crashed badly and was flown to hospital (broken shoulder and concussion). The organisation were trying to work out how they could get his bike safely out of a canyon. Long story short - I was back in the helicopter, dropped off next to the bike, and was asked to ride it back to base. There's a little more to the story but that will have to wait for another day! The ride back was 70k of technical and slow riding. Rocks, water, dry river beds, climbs, etc, and on someone else's bike. Got in around 7.00pm. My bike was collected by another service truck along with a quad that snapped its swing arm, and delivered back later in the evening. Position is 17th overall.

Day 7 - 
Got up early(ish) to replace the fuel injector. Bike working fine. Many riders has similar problems, so I'm guessing there was a bad batch of fuel yesterday morning from a local gas station. Started last on the grid and just went for it! Was around the 14th bike in. Lots of over taking, and perfect navigation. The bike stopped suddenly half way through the special - the rear fuel tank was blocked. A bit if time wasted sorting that out! The last 20k was flat out across a beach. Beautiful! Good way to end a rally. Lots of fun watching the trucks racing each other and drifting in the sand to the finish line. Finished 17th overall and got my best result on the last special of 10th.

Although not a great result I'm confident with my riding and navigation. Fitness wise I'd be happy to race another 7 days. I'm ashamed with the incident on day 2 in the dunes but lessons learnt. I have a mass of information from previous Dakar rides on how to combat the heat.

The Libya Rally was very professional, friendly, well organised, and I will definitely go again. The service team was Rally Maniacs and again they were very professional, massively knowledgeable, and great fun.