It’s all about the altitude…
At about 15,026 feet above sea level, La Quiaca is the end of the road that joins all of Argentina in an extraordinary journey that includes salt flats, geysers, lakes, volcanoes and, of course, plenty of drama.
The racers have come a long way and now they are going to climb, a lot. I try to prepare riders for specifically riding at altitude. Everything changes about the motorcycle up there, but even more importantly, the brain. I prepare riders with a special kit to battle altitude sickness and I have them train at altitude or have them use an altitude tent. If the racers lose their focus at altitude, it could cost them precious time, the race, or even worse, a trip to the hospital. This exact scenario happened to Quinn Cody some years ago. Then add the dangers of somnolence and sleep deprivation and as Ricky Brabec was quoted saying, “things are going to get interesting from here on out.”
The only altitude during the African Dakar Rally was in Morocco, crossing over the Atlas mountains. We hit every element possible during those stages!
With Barreda being penalized for speeding, Goncalves was the first to cut the trail. However, KTM Red Bull rider Toby Price won the day at altitude. Just to show a vivid example of the altitude, check out this quote from the live feed:
“12:35 :The member of David Casteu’s team is struggling on this high mountain stage. He has stopped several times to collect himself after suffering from oxygen starvation. It is no doubt that the consequences of his fall yesterday (during which he injured his collar bone) cannot be making his task any easier.”
Indeed, Toby Price took his second victory of the Dakar Rally, with Meo and Barreda following. With that result, it looks like Price will be sitting second overall in the race, just 1:47 out from Goncalves. Australia could be looking at its first Dakar winner if Toby keeps it up. Also, Brabec is now in 10th overall, moving up just as predicted.
In the cars, Loeb and Peterhansel are still neck and neck, whereas Robby Gordon and Kellon Walch have dropped back out of the top 30. I will wait to hear from Kellon to see what happened there.
Here are some 2004 shots of Scot Harden, Larry Roeseler and Paul Krause in the 2004 Dakar Rally. Larry and Scot rode the 650’s, while Paul rode the 950 that year. Or, in Paul’s words “one doesn’t ride that bike, it rides you!” Larry was a trooper that year and finished the Dakar despite needing a hip replacement. I remember doing a lot to get him through the rally, including a hip injection in Burkina Faso! He reciprocated and finished 12th overall. It was a pleasure to work with Scot, Larry and Paul.