One important deadline had been hanging over our heads throughout the journey: The Dakar rally rest-day in Copiapo in Chile on Jan 8th.
A Danish participant Jes Munk, #86 was in the rally for the second year in a row. We really wanted to meet Jes and support him the best we could. Lars had been in contact with him beforehand and he had wrote us, that the coffee would be ready when we got there 🙂
This was something that Lars wanted to do more than anything else, so this date had defined our planning all the way from Mexico to Chile. We knew exactly how much we had to ride every day in order to make it and couldn’t afford too many set-backs, but more than a few times we thought we wouldn’t make it to Copiapo in time; when the KLR wouldn’t start and when I was in bed with a bad stomach in Peru, and when we were stuck in the mud in Bolivia and when – just 2 days before the deadline – we still were in the Chilean altiplano and couldn’t find any petrol.
But once we were out of the Altiplano, we hit the smooth perfect paved Chilean roads through the Atacama desert and finally, the very last day before we reached Copiapo, we were able to do 500 km in one day. And so we managed to get there late in the evening on the 7th and got the very last and overpriced hotel room in town.
The next morning we headed out to the bivouac. Lars had been on the phone with Jes’ manager Judith and she had managed to get media passes to us, which meant we would be able to get right into the bivouac!
The bivouac was situated some 10 miles outside the city but there were no taxis going out there. We got a lift in the back of a Dakar rally organization pick-up truck, which we thought was a pretty good start!
Heading for the bivouac.
Once out there we headed for the main gate and got our pink media wristbands. YAY!
We strolled around outside for a few minutes when we suddenly heard someone behind us: “From Denmark??”. It was Jes! He welcomed us with a big hug and guided us to his camp.
The “Smashed by Munks” camp.
We couldn’t believe this. Jes was a bundle of energy even after riding 7 days in the world’s hardest off-road endurance race and probably the world’s toughest sporting event. We had expected that we would get to shake his hand, take his picture and then he would be on with other things like sleep and prepare for the next day’s race. But we spend more than 3 hours together with him.
They ride up to 800 km a day and most of it in extremely tough terrain. Something that would take us days. Every day they set up camp in a new place and ride long transport stretches in the normal traffic on bikes that are obviously not made for cruising. We think 800 km on a perfect paved road is a long day! These guys are just amazingly skilled, and in incredible good shape.
Jes introduced us to his mechanic Gilbert, the other riders on his team and to his amazingly cool manager Judith. She was the one responsible for getting us the media passes. Judith has been involved in the Dakar rally for many years and knows more or less everybody. She and Jes were trash-talking each other all the time, except when one of them wasn’t there, then they spoke highly of each other 🙂
Jes told that she was extremely knowledgeable about both PR, the DAKAR organization, the race as well as mechanical details. He also said that being a woman in a man’s world, she sometimes wasn’t listened to, even when she knew the answer. She was able to read Jes and tell him what would happen the following day. She would say “Tomorrow you will crash. You are getting cocky and you ride too fast”. He would of course answer “Argh, BS!” But in reality he was paying very much attention to her advices.
Jes had a bad crash the day before we arrived and now his French mechanic Gilbert was going through every little inch of the bike, cleaning everything, exchanging damaged parts and finally putting new stickers on the bike. By the end of the day it looked completely new again.
He had hit a large rock and the bike and he went flying. The rock left a pretty bad dent in his rim.
He showed his trashed jacket and the mark from his mobile phone in the back pocket where he had been sliding.
In general he told a lot of crazy bad-ass stories about serious crashes and people who watched their vehicles burn down and about the fear of being hit by the cars or trucks in the dunes. The most scary thing would be, to be stuck behind a dune when the alarm starts beeping, indicating that another vehicle was approaching and could run you over in a second.
He also told how the more experienced participants would take care of the new ones. The worst was the young riders – typically from the motocross world – because their reaction to get out of any bad situation would always be to yank the throttle. And they would generally ride too fast. The experienced riders knew that the risk of the new riders hurting themselves was very big and they would talk to the them trying to give some advice.
In this game, if you are in the front, you are expected to navigate and the rest will more or less follow your path. Jes learned this the hard way, when – in a previous Pharaons rally – he went off like a rocket. The more experienced riders response was “All right Munk, so you think you are fast?” They let him navigate all the way and made him sweat for having the lead. Later on, when he made a navigation fault, they all let him know what they thought about his riding skills.
Two bikes in a sad state. Imagine standing there watching your bike burning up completely!
Jes was actually serious about the coffee thing and served us cups of strong awesome Nescafe.
Details of the cool bike!
Spare parts attached everywhere possible on the bike. Notice the clutch lever, the break lever and the transmission plate. The box on the right side is the tracking box that all vehicles have. The signal from the box is sent to Paris and they communicate with the driver and decides what action to be taken.
We were given a tour around the sleeping quarters! Don’t know how they get a minute of sleep in there. The noise in the bivouac is extremely loud. There’s always something going on – 24/7
Jes showed us the rally book with a map and general overview and description of every stage.
The green part would be the transportation stretches and the read the actual race stretch. We were pretty surprised to see how many kilometers of transportation they have to do every day. It’s often more than half the total distance.
Every afternoon the participants meet for a briefing by the information tent for information about the stage the following day. This is also where the actual road book is handed out. Jes showed us his road book from the previous stage with his private comments and small signs he made, to make it easier for him to read.
This was Jes’ second year riding the Dakar. Last year he got a last minute chance to participate on a Aprilla after he made 9th place at the Rallye des Pharaons. He went out of the rally after stage 4. This year his ambition was to complete the rally. Being here at the rest day was already a huge success.
Jes did make it through the entire rally and crossed the finish line in Lima as number 52 – an amazing accomplishment.
Jes with his biggest fans!
Judith liked our story and talked to the DAKAR website journalist. He came over and made a short interview with us and we made it to the news page of the DAKAR rally web site. Can you believe it! Check it out. Think he gives us a bit too much credit, haven’t exactly been practicing enduro for 20 years, but it sure sounds good 🙂
Photos from the bivouac.
Authentic Dakar headgear
Every ADV riders wet dream!
The Dakar Rally has been held in South America since 2009, but for the first year, they were racing through 3 countries with the finish line in Lima, Peru.
The information tent.
Pal Anders Ullevalseter #6 from Norway rides KTM and ended as #6 in the overall ranking for bikes.
Marc Coma #1 from Spain ended as number 2 on his KTM in this years rally. Coma won the rally in 2011, 2009, 2006. Wonder if the guy in the red shirt behind him, is ready to take over the throne? 😉
Cyril Despres #2 from France also rides a KTM and was this years winner. He also won the Dakar Rally in 2010, 2007, 2005
Big smile from US rider Ned Suesse #81 also on a KTM. It was his first Dakar but even though, he was the only US-rider to finish the 2012 Dakar. We first heard about Ned when we visited KLIM in Rigby, Idaho a couple of month earlier. KLIM was sponsoring Ned, which is why we wanted to meet him and wish him the best of luck in the race.
Robby Gordon from the US, in Hummer #303. Ended as number 5 in the overall ranking. The guy is a real showman and knows what the spectators wants – hence, he’s always doing crazy things to cheer up the audience.
What better way to end an awesome day than with an awesome party in the Chile PR lounge.
The Chile PR lounge did their uttermost to show the very best of Chilean fine culture. We enjoyed every bit of it. Here we have some of the local beer and Pisco Sour.
Packing up. Jes was already sleeping and his team was packing the camp – preparing to leave early next morning – when we stopped by to say goodbye.
The next morning we got up early to wave the the riders of as they rode through Copiapo city and to cheer for Jes as he blew by us.
#3 Helder Rodrigues and #20 Gerard Farres Guell from Spain ready for a long transport stretch before the race.
See all the pictures from our day in the DAKAR bivouac here
And enjoy this official DAKAR Best of Bike video