Dakar: Face to Face, day seven

Face to Face January 6, 2006 moto: The untameable Le Coq Olivier Le Coq (no 126) "I'm not complaining ". This best describes the mischievous Olivier Le Coq. Tough as leather; like many we come across in the middle of the night near the " bike...

Face to Face
January 6, 2006

moto: The untameable Le Coq
Olivier Le Coq (no 126)

"I'm not complaining ". This best describes the mischievous Olivier Le Coq. Tough as leather; like many we come across in the middle of the night near the " bike trunks ", the area for riders without assistance. This 44-year old gentleman, of a prop forward rugby man proportion , experienced one hell of a day between Quarzazate and Tan-Tan.

A few hours earlier, on a stony route inundated with dust, he took a massive fall between the petrol CP and the finish of the stage. Explanation: " As I was being passed by a truck, I couldn't see a thing and I fell hard on the soft sand ". His second fall of the day resulted in a large bruise to his left thigh, which now has him limping and has caused burns to the knees due to the rubbing of his knee protectors. Now, Olivier is an " evening visitor " to the bivouac's medical tent.

A new chapter in an already thick book for this monster of determination, who also runs the service department of a Renault importer in Abidjan. A volunteer for the Dakar Organisation in 1998 and 99, he set off on the adventure in 2004. " I was so tired after 20-hours of riding that I was having hallucinations in the Mauritanian desert, " he tells us. " I posed the bike on a dune, spent the night under the stars and the next morning, I left with assistance towards Dakar ". Last year, Olivier took a nasty spill on a dune near Zouerat and lost consciousness before being helped by fellow Dakar rider and mate, Jean-Hughes Moneyron.

This year, the lone competitor from Abidjan, Olivier Le Coq has two consecutive retirements on the Dakar. An idea that he finds impossible to accept. Leaning over his machine, on which he alone carries out the repairs, he smiles under the bright lights while dusting off his two African lucky charms, a crocodile head and a small wood sculptured monkey. " I have to make it to Dakar " this " toubab " convinces himself, who is one of the rare Frenchman who didn't flee from the Ivory Coast, in November of 2004, under the pressure of the " Patriots ". We told you Olivier is a courageous man.

moto: Voyage to the end of his night
Pascal Rigaudeau (no. 91)

Tan-Tan. 1: 25am. Pascal Rigaudeau arrives at the bivouac. He removes his helmet, closes his eyes and painfully sits down. An anonymous mechanic bends down and passes a wet towel over his dirt-covered face. " Relax, I'll look after your bike ", he gently tells him. Pascal murmurs, " I can't go on...its hell... ". Then, slowly, he stretches out and sleeps for a few minutes, which will not be enough to rejuvenate him. A quarter hour later, Pascal awakes. He gets up and limps over to the mechanic working on his machine. Despite the fatigue he says: " I fell three days ago, between Nador and Er Rachidia. I severely sprained my ankle. But with the bike boots, it's holding on and I can continue. And then, on yesterday's stage, I had a puncture at kilometre 150. I had nothing with me to make the repair so I kept going. I rode the last 200 kilometres of the stage on the wheel rim. When I finally competed the stage, I loaded the tyre with camel grass in order to make it to the bivouac. It took me six hours to ride the 300 kilometres of the liaison section. I knew this wasn't a race for the light of heart, but not to this extent! I have been riding for the past 20 hours, I've slept three hours over the last two nights, and I no longer have feeling in my arms. It hurts everywhere. It is really hard."

Yet, Pascal has no intention of quitting. He dreams of Dakar, the dunes that flow just until the horizon, Lake Rose and the famous final stretch on the beach, caressed by the waves, as the ultimate reward. " I will do everything to make it to the end. It would be a real shame to suffer so much in taking part in the Dakar to have it all end like this. " Because, like so many others, Pascal moved heaven and earth to find the budget needed for his first participation. So, even when fatigue takes the upper hand, when doubt and discouragement cast a shadow over his dreams, Pascal refuses to give in. And he looks towards his rider friends, the other novices like him, who each day, push themselves to their limits. " All of the riders are united. I feel really good amongst them. They have comforted me just when I thought I have come to the end of my tether. "

Tan-Tan. 3am. Pascal Rigaudeau tightens up his motorcycle boots. He winces just a bit before getting on his bike and putting on his helmet. " Come on, I have to go. They are waiting for me at the start. " He starts up, grabs first gear then, before leaving, boastfully shouts to all, " Anyway, for me, it will be Dakar or bust. So, it will be Dakar, though it will be costly." And he storms of into the night, on route for a voyage beyond his limits.

Zouerat. 19:30. Pascal exits the medical tent. "Bad news, he proclaims with a forced smile, I broke my collarbone. I retired..." He turns his head with a nostalgic look back at his "bike trunk", his makeshift and unlucky companions. "I am devastated, I really wanted to make it to the end. I said to myself: once in your life you will do the Dakar and you will go all the way to the end. And then, I went for an idiotic fall when I ran over a log, which I never would have had I not accumulated so many difficulties since the start. Still, that's the way it is..." Pascal turns towards his trunk to arrange his tools, breastplate and his boots one last time. Tonight he sleeps in the medical tent before catching a flight back to France. And so what about Dakar and Lake Rose...? "I don't know, he sighs, I don't know if I'll come back. But what is sure, is that I will continue to dream..."

-aso-

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Series Dakar