Profi Moto class: 260 kms – 30% hard piste, 50% sand piste, 20% dunes.
“Anyone can ride fast – the trick is to ride fast, and not crash!”
If yesterday’s sand-storms weren’t enough, early this morning the heavens opened, and the competitors woke to the sound of rain drops on their windows (or tents), together with puddles in the bivouac and ominously grey skies – split with alarming regularity by a bolt of lightning!
Fortunately the start (9am for Moto Profi), the rain had eased at least, but the sand was very wet, and soon cut up as the first few bikes passed into the dunes – it is going to be hard work for the riders today…
Clad in lightweight rain-gear – Team Dirtpunk #317 & #318 were ready for what could be considered perfect conditions for the British contingent – “For us it will be just like racing in the UK! – except the sand!” Grins Gabe, “It will be just like the Weston Beach Race!” adds Paul with a smile.
With 260 kms of sandy piste and dunes for the Profi riders to navigate today, this penultimate stage is renowned for catching out tired and unwary riders, who typically suffer from time penalties after missing the necessary checkpoints. Therefore Paul and Gabriel intend to take it easy today, conserve their now depleting energy and concentrate on navigation, and rather let others make the mistakes around them.
Results update for Day 5: due to a data processing issue late last night, the Organisation have now revised the overall standings to include a rider they had missed, which effectively dropped Gabriel and Paul one position in the overall standings: Gabriel is now 23rd, and Paul 24th, with only seconds splitting their equal stage times, having ridden together all week.
With almost an hour to catch up to the next rider ahead of them (in 22nd position) they are unlikely to improve their respective overall positions at this late stage of the rally. However, their more immediate worry is the rider only 9 minutes behind them in 24th position, catching and passing them in the overall standings.
Despite the wet start and wind throughout the day, with the end of the rally tantalizingly close now, Paul & teammate Gabriel put in another solid performance, maintaining their positions in the overall standings.
Although they finished the penultimate stage together, the timecard procedure means Paul and Gabriel have effectively swapped places in the overall standings.
“As the rally has gone on, you can begin to understand how the more you do this [rallying], the better you get.” Paul begins “At first we were being passed by everyone, but while we’re not perhaps going appreciably faster now due to tiredness, we are certainly riding far more confidently through each stage.” I think if we were to continue to ride more and more events, we would certainly improve our results – already I feel able to tackle the terrain much more aggressively than I thought [ever] possible at the beginning of the week.”
“For example there was a moment today when a couple of riders had got between Gabe and I” he continues “But I was confident enough to really put the hammer down and get past them – although I admit I did then almost lose it [in a big way] when I hit a ground-wave section – my arms and legs flying everywhere! – but the difference was, I was able to stay on the bike and just carry on…”
Togged up in wet weather gear for the beginning of the stage, Paul elected to wear his ‘Wales specification’ Gortex jacket that provided excellent protection early on, but soon proved far too warm as the day progressed “All of a sudden we were out of the wind, in the dunes, and almost immediately I started to suffer from heat exhaustion” he explains “My jacket was too big and bulky to stow in my rucksack comfortably, so I ended up having to zip-tie it to the back of the bike” he grins. Fortunately the loop format of the stage meant he was ultimately able to leave it with his service team at the refuel checkpoint.
“Today’s stage felt like they [the Orga] had put in a lot of tricky navigation and technical terrain to really test you… There were lots of dunes, the bikes were boiling over again – and even towards the end of the day, there was no let up – even though you were starting to feel exhausted, they continued to push you… I was begging for a nice smooth track!” he laughs.
Despite their obvious tiredness, Paul was still enthusiastic, and perhaps even a little despondent that the rally was almost at an end – “I did wonder [on the way back to the bivouac] if I could actually manage to ride ten days for example” he smiles “Then again, I’m actually having trouble picking up my pint this evening because my hands hurt so much… so maybe not!”
Stage result: day 6/7: 25th (8h01m)
Overall position: day 6/7: 23rd