Face to Face
January 15, 2006
bike: Gypsum flower
"There is an English expression that says all women are roses, but I prefer to think of a desert rose to a garden variety." Hands swollen with blisters, Patsy removes her helmet. Her blonde hair sculptured by the sand and early morning sun of Labe. In spite of the visible fatigue in her cheeks, the eyes cast a brilliant sparkle. "I don't want to speak to soon, but I think this time we're going to go all the way." Patsy discreetly smiles as if not tempt fate before the task is completed. "This is my fourth Dakar and so far I've retired each time. I had a very serious crash that did major spleen damage in 2003, I was alone in the desert for 48-hours before being disqualified in 2004 and then last year I had to call it quits with a faulty battery...So, this year I will go all the way even if it means crawling to Dakar", she said before taking the start.
This time everything is going fine for Patsy. Even though, like many others, she struggled in the Mauritanian sand, losing time stuck in the dune valleys. While she dug, day turned to night, and her old demons began to dance around her once again to prevent her from living her dream. But Patsy his tough as leather. She held on, battling this persistent doubt that little by little began to come to mind. "Each night, in making it to the bivouac, I was a little more tired. But the bike was fine. So it came down to a question of wanting it and a savage desire to never give back an inch of terrain, to exceed my limitations day in and day out." Clive Town, her long-time friend and riding partner since her first rally-raid experience, remains by her side. He encourages Patsy, but also pushes her and calms her down when she rides too hard trying to click off the kilometers as fast as possible in order to finally reach her goal of riding to Lake Rose. "He's right, she says, sometimes I really go for it when I should be enjoying the moment or I feel good and should leave a little something in reserve. But you know, it's a question of nature."
Yet, Patsy is a tranquil little lady, an antique dealer from East Sussex who pampers her knick-knacks, her dogs and her pig. But, every weekend, she dawns her motorcycle boots, her black leather jacket with a proud eagle on the back to compete or just take a ride on muddy country tracks. In the back of her head are thoughts of the desert and gypsum flowers. A rose that this year will finally bloom along the shore of Lake Rose.
bike: In the name of Glory
Not a sign of fatigue. More than any other sentiment, it is sheer happiness that shows on his face bathed in the warm Dakar sun. At 27-years of age, Laurent Lazard is savouring his childhood dream. Nevertheless, he says he is completely spent after this "human adventure", that he never imagined would be so demanding. But he is about to make history in being the first Uruguayan rider to finish the Dakar: what pride!
The principal satisfaction for this experienced enduro rider, who has 25 participations to his credit, was that he didn't suffer the hellish difficulties of so many others. Besides a minor mechanical problem in Morocco, a few harmless falls and the classic struggles in the Mauritanian dunes. Yet he has the impression the event has taken it is toll. "Psychologically, it was so hard that on more than one occasion I started crying as I rode", he says. "I thought that I was worthless but what reassured me was that I saw even the very best struggle as well." And Laurent, who worried about lack of sleep always managed to go to bed around 8h30, like his professional friends David Casteu and Carlo de Gavardo.
Last year, he went to Barcelona to encourage his Mexican friend Pedro de Uriarte and to take notes. He didn't hide his pleasure in becoming a member of the "Dakar family" last December 31st at the footsteps of the Lisbon Cultural Centre. Born in the French city of Nimes, he has lived for the past 27 years in the small seaside town of Las Toscas, along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. His love of wide open spaces drove him to organize adventure raids in Patagonia. He has become some what of a star in Uruguay and is a frequent guest of television programs and was decorated with the "Charrua Award" -- the local legion of honor- after having posted a best time on the 2002 Master Rally and two second place finishes on the Argentina Rally behind Carlo de Gavardo. "The Continent's major networks like Fox Sports and ESPN have interviewed me everyday since we left Lisbon", he says amusingly.
More than his position on the Dakar (32nd), Laurent intends to reap the benefits of his experience: "I want to arrive at Dakar to promote the sport back in Uruguay. I am the only rider to race out side of South America. So, as I have duel nationality, and Uruguayans are mad for motor racing, I am their ambassador at the races and I want to use that to open the door." He has created a racing structure for a small group of enduro racing friends to compete on shorter rallies in Europe. Then, why not, a participation on the 2007 Dakar.