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Craig Keyworth Dakar Rally 2020

CRAIG’S DAKAR – STAGE 4

We're following our man Craig Keyworth through his Dakar Rally 2020 experience. Stage 4 – a long-long one done, but a small hiccup near the end... Images: Rally Zone
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2020 DAKAR RALLY – CRAIG KEYWORTH #114
JAN 8, 2020
STAGE 4: Neom – Al ‘Ula
Liaison 219km, Special 453km
Position: 101st o/a, 100th stage
Time: 24:33.54

We’re 1/3 complete. We were promised all types of sand for this Dakar. Today’s sand was the kind that decided it was too tough to be turned into sand, so had stayed rock. Mostly about the size of a grapefruit. Jet black and interspersed with football to rucksack sized daddy rocks hell bent on really spoiling your day.

There’s probably a technique to riding them, but for now I went with fast enough to skip over them, but not so fast that when you float towards a big one you can hopefully do something about not hitting it. It was about 50 – 70km/h, this isn’t fast enough in the scheme of things. Most stages I’m aiming for an 80 – 90km/h average. I’m not really achieving it. In these rocks I’d started to dream of being on the 300 two-stroke, but each time the thought entered my head the rally bike would have a tantrum and kick the back or front wheel out, so I dispelled such thoughts of infidelity and focused back on the task in hand.

Eventually the rock subsided and opened up into huge flat plains. The shame was a savage headwind, but full of fuel and on loose sand the FR450 pulled 147km/h. I’ll keep working on that.

The last 100km were big rock slab strewn flowing whoops. It’d make a great enduro loop, if you’d not already done 490km…

Craig Keyworth Dakar Rally 2020
It was getting late, the light was dropping and the waypoint was not to be found – time to make for the finish line and take the penalty

Today was a long day. As I’m typing the service crew are still chugging to the bivouac, so I’ve been in this riding kit about 13 hours now. 120km liaison, 460km stage and a 90km liaison to the bivouac, but those 460km were hard won.  I was given a nice escort on the liaison back this evening by one of the safety/Organisers T trucks (Toyota Hiluxs and Landcruisers – ‘Tangos’ – they’re spaced about 40km apart through the stage and used for comms, medics etc). The driving at night is pretty ropey, so I was glad of a metal buffer and some big spotlights to follow.

Tomorrow will be a funny one. The last two have been 1/4 and 1/3 so tomorrow is just day 5. Just day 5. That’s got to be a better day than being in the office though for sure.

Still feeling pretty good. I missed a waypoint today, and was in danger of being in the stage after sunset, which I’m keen to avoid at all costs, so I pressed on, meaning I’ll get a healthy time penalty.

Still, I’m hoping to stay healthy, uninjured and with the bike intact as much as possible, so I’m genuinely not chasing numbers. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Craig Keyworth Dakar Rally 2020
Some days you just don't have time to level that goggle strap...

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