Queen of the desert nails it in Tunisia

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British rider Vanessa Ruck, who is more commonly known on social media as ‘TheGirlOnABike’, has become the first woman to start and finish the Tunisia Desert Challenge.

First run last year, the ‘TDC’ desert rally covers 2500km over eight days. With four different rider categories ranging from experienced racers to relative novices, it’s a ‘pay and play’ affair with bike entry fees ranging from £2800-£3500.

“It was a gruelling endurance event, covering up to 469km each day,” Ruck said. “But it wasn’t all sunshine! I slept in the dunes with a camp fire awaiting rescue, I had a medical close call after seven hours in 45°C sand dunes and a helicopter med evacuation and got lost in a sand storm with 65km winds… But I just kept going!”

Vanessa Ruck in Tunisia

A total of 398 vehicles – including cars, buggies, race trucks and 55 bikes – took part, although Vanessa was the only female rider.

She tackled the trip on her Beta 480 RR, riding with the Desert Rose Racing Academy, and finally came home 35th in the bike category as the first-ever female to finish.

The 35-year-old from Kent developed her social media platforms while undergoing numerous surgeries and extensive recovery after being hit by a car while cycling in 2014.

No longer able to cycle, motorcycling – particularly off road – became her favourite form of adventure and her accounts of her experiences all over the world in places such as Bolivia and Iceland have been featured in MCN before.