2020 DAKAR RALLY – CRAIG KEYWORTH #114
JAN 15, 2020
STAGE 10: Haradh – Shubaytar
Liaison 74km, Special 534km
Position: 80th o/a, 68th stage
Not a full day of racing today. Deteriorating weather conditions and consequently strained logistics have meant the stage was called after 345km today (our assumption being that was the start of the second timed section of the stage). Although that’s the distance the ASO is giving, the timing sheets reflect the times taken up to the start of the mid-stage 120km neutralisation zone (PK4?) so the top riders finished after just over two hours, probably around the 200km mark (the full timed stage was set to be 534km).
Craig has finished the timed stage well in 68th and so climbs to 80th overall. Right now (11.30 GMT) he’s probably with the other competitors transiting to the bivouac, in liaison. Good to see fellow Brits Simon Hewitt and Mick Extance, both out of the competition but continuing in the Dakar Experience category (both effectively with new engines following breakages).
We’ll have more when Craig reports from the bivouac.
Craig made the bivouac, here’s his report sent 15:46 GMT:
Who’d have thought that my ‘push a bit in the second half’ strategy would be shared by anyone else? Crazy…. The pace has gone up all round.
The body count today is so high that they neutralised the second half of the stage as there was insufficient helicopter cover. We see ten helicopters rolling out each morning. Sort of a safety escort on our liaison. It’s a pretty cool sight if I’m honest.
Into the sand dunes proper today and I immediately get embroiled in a Dakar motocross race from the gun. I’m riding in a gaggle that seem keen on making ground and entirely unkeen on giving any. It’s elbows out and block passes off monster dune faces. I realise I’m amongst it rather than observing it. I let it go. Again a rather strange occurrence for me. They forge ahead like those time bandits from the retro film, grumbling and smashing their way through the dunes and if I’m honest, taking rubbish lines and liberties in equal measure. Not ten minutes later a circling helicopter signals the inevitable. Today has some huge, steep and unseen drop offs, it’s savagely windy and the top, rear face of the dune is soft and unforgiving. The cold, hard stop at the bottom even less so. Time bandit down.
I’m going to ride my own day.
Mick catches up. As has been discussed, he’s a dune Jedi. He’s got a couple of hangers-on and frustratingly I’m busting for a pee. I’m aware that some of the top boys now ride with a ‘pee pipe’ in, and it seems like a good idea right now. I also know a fair number of lads just let loose whilst riding.
This is a decent group and I’d like to stay with it. It’s much easier to negotiate and ‘see over’ dunes if there’s a few of you. You can monitor the drops and flow by using the other riders, and they you. You tend to swap position a bit but you can pull it back easily if you take a bad line, or have to brake hard for a drop – the others can react from further back and stay smoother, so pass, but you can rejoin at the back and repeat.
I ride solo for quite a while instead. Just so we’re clear I’m solo because I stopped, not because I stink of pee!
Mick’s group are pretty easily caught as seemingly their nav is rubbish. The wind I mentioned – which is incredible and pushes the back of the bike around if you get it airborne – also does a great job of covering the tracks in the softer sand. As soon as we drop onto a valley with some tricky nav I’m back into the fold, and in front of it, as our group has now sussed one of us at least is using the roadbook.
We hit the neutral zone, grab a quick bite and press on for 130km, only to find our news of the cancellation/neutralisation of the second part of the stage. A shame as I was keen, and ready, to continue my push.
We’ve arrived at the Marathon bivouac and I have to say I’m real disappointed. My other rallies have had almost magical in desert camps with rug tents, fire pits and an amazing atmosphere. We’re in a refugee camp on the apron of an oil field airport. I’m pretty sure I’ve been here before for work and it was bleak and soulless then, and it’s a bit the same now. Onwards to tomorrow though, and I got back early enough for a good nap, so that’s a plus.