How the hell do you... Complete the Dakar Rally?
The world’s leading professional nutcases, daredevils and racing heroes reveal their expert knowledge on the most ridiculous biking feats you can imagine in MCN’s 20-part, once a week special. Don’t try this at home!
Here's part 18
Answered by Llewellyn Pavey - In 2015, Llewellyn competed in, and finished, his first Dakar Rally.
Getting to the finish line of the Dakar is one battle, but even making it to the start is incredibly tough and easily half the war. Just entering costs £60-80,000 per person. That’s including bike, flights, support, tyres, fuel, everything. It’s a massive logistical exercise to find this money and it took me two years to put my entry together, so it’s almost a relief when you actually start the race.
A lot of the Dakar terrain isn’t difficult, it’s actually pretty easy. A few bits are hard, but a UK national enduro is technically far harder. Where the Dakar bites is the length of time you are on the bike and the extreme conditions. You ride between 300-650 miles a day, every day, for fourteen days and it wears you down. We were riding in 51oC for 12 hours solid after just five hours sleep. The next day it would go from freezing to 38 oC for another 12 hours of riding. That’s mentally very challenging and tiring which causes mistakes.
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Riding an off-road bike is physically demanding, throw a road book in there and your brain loses concentration. One tiny mistake and you’ll be in a world of pain. When you fall off it hurts, but you can’t give up and you won’t give up.
The few times I got in a situation where I considered quitting I just looked at the options. I could dig deep and make it to the end of the stage or sit on a rock in the middle of the desert on my own. The harsh reality of being on my own in a desert wasn’t very appealing – I’m not Bear Grylls. You just have to put up with the suffering, which I actually acclimatised myself to by doing two seasons of national enduro while fat and unfit!
To be honest, finishing the Dakar is an anti-climax. I crossed the line, went for a meal and fell asleep at the dinner table. You are physically destroyed, but once it sinks in and you are looking at your finisher’s medal it’s an incredible feeling.