With the 2015 Dakar Rally recently completed and the final results published, I could do little more than marvel at the skills, endurance and mental strength of the riders that had completed the entire rally. One hundred sixty-one motorcycle competitors left Buenos Aires on the 4th of January 2015 and only seventy-nine arrived at the finish line once again in Buenos Aires nearly two weeks later. That’s means that more than half the field of highly skilled, motivated and driven riders were not able to make it to the finish line.
Of the 161 riders that entered the event, only two were women. Both were able to finish meaning for the women, there was a 100% success rate. Finishing 9th overall, Laia Sanz was the highest woman’s finisher in the history of the Dakar. As you can imagine, Laia is not new to the off road world and her racing resume is impressive. She is a thirteen time Women’s Trial World Champion and ten time Women’s Trial European Champion in Outdoor Motorcycle Trials. She has also formed part of the Spanish Female Team in the Trial des Nations, winning it five times (2000, 2002, 2008, 2010, 2011).
In 2010 competed in the Women’s Enduro World Championship for the first time. And also in 2011 participated, for the first time, in the Dakar Rally winning the Female motorcycle category and finished 39th overall, position that she managed to better this year.
The other female motorcycle competitor was Spanish rider Rosa Romero Font. Wife of Dakar winner Nani Roma (A Dakar champion on bike cars) Rosa finished 52nd overall at the age of 45. This was her 4th Dakar and her first finish.
In this intensely physical and mental challenge, these two women riders were able to compete with the men and finish better than most of the starting field. Yet they drew very little attention from the media on their accomplishments. You have to wonder why. They compete on the same level as men, often on “inferior” non-factory machines. This year Laia was on a factory sponsored Honda and was able to provide the highest women’s finish in the history of the Dakar.
Her result may beg a question. “Should there be separate divisions for men in women in the Dakar, or is it better to leave the Dakar as it is?” Would having separate dedicated divisions bring more attention to the women of the sport and perhaps more female competitors for the future. Would creating separate divisions create an unnecessary rift between the men and women competitors and over inflate the women’s finishers performance in light of the current small female fields?
I don’t have the answer, but would like to hear what you think.
Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time
I’ve gotten to thinking lately about how lucky I’ve been to have discovered two wheeled transportation. Even more so, having discovered two wheels powered by an engine.
I can still remember my first pedal bike very clearly. Those early experiences, spent on two wheels molded a desire for adventure and adventuring. That machine, powered by the force of muscle and the breath of a young boy, was in reality powered by the imagination of a young mind, imagining and longing for adventure.
As I rode that 20″ framed machine, a pair of young legs thrust its rider toward unseen and previously imagined horizons. Two wheels became the means to cover great distances at great speed. I can still remember the rush of the air by my face and the wind tousling my then full head of hair. Just the thought of being able to cover what appeared to be vast distances at what was then great speed, gave growth to a longing sense of adventure to new places and adventures yet untaken.
As the years passed, older and not necessarily much wiser, motorized two wheel transportation came within my reach. Motorized two wheel transportation, to a budding adventurer, young or old represents a waiting magic carpet. Often attractive in looks, slim, sleek and comfortable, freshly cleaned tassels (farkles) glittering, it awaits those who would simply climb aboard and enjoy the ride to the next adventure.
For those that do take that magical leap, the world and a world of experiences await. The only barrier, the willingness to take off on the journey and an open mind with which to experience the world. Should the rider climb on, grab the tassels, and consent to set the journey in motion, the experiences of the world await. Both good and bad.
Whether those experiences are good or bad will be decided by the magic carpet rider. Only that person, the one who has the intimate experiences, can pass judgement on them. For those who truly savor an adventure, the good and the bad are what make up the adventure. These experiences combine to provide a soup for the soul. A tablespoon of fun, a cup of local hospitality and perhaps a dash of mechanical difficulty all combine to flavor the pot with a rich and hearty flavor. Such adventurers know that a soup made of only a single fine ingredient will never match the taste of one made with many different standard ingredients.
So that brings me back to the title of this little article. On any adventure, is it worth it to risk good and bad experiences, with the bad potentially outweighing the good? At the end of the journey, will the adventurer be any better or worse for having taken the adventure? Let’s examine this a bit and see what we can come up with.
Let me give you a real world scenario. My father had frontal lobe dementia, a disease sort of like Alzheimer’s, that first robbed him of his memory, and ultimately his life. A brilliant scientist, as the dementia took hold, his memory was severely reduced and he was a mere shell of the experiences he encountered and the education he obtained. So was it worth it for him to work hard, get two undergraduate and two post-graduate degrees, have a family, raise children, and risk all the hardships that raising a family can bring. The simple answer, of course it was! My father lived a full life and enjoyed his family and his interactions with others despite some of the hardships that came with it.
With the passing of my father, did his experiences die? No, they were had, felt and responded to by him and others. These experiences molded him into the person he would later become. Without them, he and indeed the world itself, would be different. Both he and the people he met had changed, no matter how slightly, by their interactions.
So the same might be said of that would be adventurer thinking about jumping on that two wheeled motorized magic carpet. Is it worth it to take that magical leap onto two wheels and commence your journey of new life experiences to new places and new people? There could be difficult times during the journey… For those that wish to experience the world and those in it, the answer is a clear; yes!
Although we all will eventually die, the experiences we have had, together with the interactions with those we have met, will live on in those people and their children. So by riding the magic carpet, we will have made the world and ourselves, a little richer and better at each waypoint of the journey.
So jump on your magic carpet and take off on that journey!
Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time
Why? That’s the old question asked of mountain climbers by risk averse earth bound mortals who can’t fathom why anyone would risk life and limb to climb a mountain. The well known and sometimes quoted response… “Because it’s there!” attributed to British mountain climber George Herbert Leigh Mallory seems to be a somewhat enigmatic response. Was he really saying that the only reason that he attempted to climb Everest was because it was in front of him? Hmmm…..
One of my acquaintances recently asked a similar question having seen parts of the Dakar Rally, arguably one of the most challenging, exhausting and perhaps most dangerous sanctioned racing competitions on the planet, especially on a motorcycle. Why would someone, particularly a privateer with no corporate sponsorship and no real financial motivation, enter such a competition?
A clearly dangerous activity, racing the Dakar on a motorcycle is one hugely intrepid undertaking. Towering mountains, vast deserts, blistering heat, high speeds on rough terrain and long days in the saddle are merely part of the challenge that is Dakar. Numerous competitors have lost their lives over the years and not just from solo falls, but from collisions with other competitors, getting lost, days long sand storms, dehydration, and some would even say, sheer exhaustion. Some days you ride over one hundred miles just to get to the start of the day’s race. Stages (timed sections of the race) can be so long that by the time many competitors make it to the bivouac at the end of the day, they barely have enough time to eat some food, service the bike and take care of bodily functions before the start of the next day’s stage. Sleep is a commodity that is often in very short supply making this grueling, physical two week feat all the more difficult.
So once again, people may ask, why do they do it?
I’ve never been a Dakar competitor so I can’t say with any degree of certainty why the men and women who take on this challenge and pay huge sums of money to do so, risk it all for a competition that many people don’t even know exist. I know that I’ll never ride the Dakar and probably will never have half the skill necessary to undertake such a racing adventure, but being a so-so rider always trying to improve, I think I may have an inkling of what drives a privateer to enter the Dakar.
The Dakar is a gigantic ever changing and shifting monster. High as the mountains, covered in deep sand and jagged rock, it breathes its hot windy breath like fire onto all who would try to take it on. Its call is a mesmerizing one for those who hear it, at first a chant, but increasingly becoming more of a taunt. “You can’t beat me and you know it. You can’t beat me and you know it. You can’t beat me and you know it.”
To those who hear the chant and taunt, the Dakar is an affront to their abilities. Some people come equipped with an excess of drive; drive to excel, succeed, and overcome challenges that many others might find overwhelming. To them, the Dakar monster represents an irrepressible challenge, the triple dog dare of dares. It’s one they just can’t turn away from. The Dakar confronts them and thus the monster must be slayed.
Thus they risk financial hardship and potentially financial ruin, trying to prepare a Dakar ready and worthy effort. Then there’s the physical training necessary to undertake to ensure the requisite fitness to endure such a travail and maximum opportunity to reach the monster. Finally, there’s the task of slaying the monster. If you are able to financially and physically make it to the Dakar, you have reached a major milestone, but you just begun your journey. The monster awaits.
Over two weeks, you will engage and fight the monster. Some days you may feel like you are winning, but most you will feel battered and lucky to be alive. The monster is that tough. It will fight you long and hard, with all of its elemental power raining down on you trying to force you to fail or quit. If you are lucky, you will do battle for the full two weeks with this unrelenting force of nature few can overcome. But, if you have worked hard enough, if you have trained hard enough, if you have tried hard enough and lastly if you are brave enough, the monster can be tamed, temporarily at least.
Your reward will be your own knowledge that you, using your own skills, strength, stamina and bravery have beaten an “unbeatable” beast. The ultimate recognition that using your own abilities and wits, you overcame and conquered an insurmountable challenge. This time. And for those who have heard the chanting and taunting of the beast and emerged victorious, the question will be, “Was one victory enough?” For this beast never truly dies, it just goes back to where it came from and waits for you or others to try to beat it again. For those who failed, the chant and taunt becomes louder and fiercer. Only the truly daunting will attempt another attack on the beast.
So why would anyone with a sense of riding and racing adventure risk it all to ride the Dakar? The answer is simple, “Because it’s there!”