Repsol riders in Dakar 2006: Marc Coma
What does the Dakar mean to you?
"It's the par excellence race in the world of off-road racing. Its volume and the repercussion, the people it moves, the route, the countries...all of it makes it a unique and admired race, where all riders hope to participate some day."
What makes it so special?
"Africa and the desert have a special charm, very difficult to express in words. All those who have experienced it or who have been there can understand it, but it's difficult to explain to somebody who has never been there."
Which is the best and the worst memory you keep of all the times you've been there?
"There are very good memories and I prefer to forget about the bad. The best is probably the humanity, it's a race where people help each other, there's a lot of solidarity."
Considering all you've experienced, would you say that the desert is a friend or an enemy?
"You have to understand the desert. I think that if you understand it and enjoy it, it can be your friend."
Is there a difference now that you're facing the Dakar with the Raids World Championship title in your pocket?
"We try to grow as riders and as persons, and the fact of having achieved the world championship title is another proof that we are on the right path. You face the Dakar with a lot more confidence and security, and not because of the title as such, but because of what it took us to get it. We're better prepared every year."
You'll be the number one rider of the team this year: advantage or inconvenience?
"It makes no difference to me. Last year I already started with the aim of getting the victory. We'll try to do things the best we can, as always, and therefore the situation won't be different for me."
The stages of the Dakar are long and you often have to ride alone. What do you do to keep concentrated?
"I try to focus on navigation and the final target, without getting distracted, despite spending several hours on the bike. Here's where you really notice the help of the psychological work we do."
How is the relation between you and your team-mates?
"Very good. I have known Jordi Duran and Viladoms for many years. With the arrival of Viladoms we haven't lost the team spirit we had, on the contrary it helped us to keep it. We could easily say that we're family."
There's only one possible target this year...
"Yes, but the Dakar is a very complicated race and it is long. There are many factors playing an important role. I'll go for all and the target is winning the race, but we all have to be very strong, because there are thousands of things that may happen."
Who do you think will be your main rival? Which are their weakest points?
"Cyril Despres is the winner of last year's race, so he'll be the man to be beaten, but there are other riders to be taken into account, who are highly qualified to clinch the victory. I'll keep their weakest point to myself."
What would you highlight as a personal quality of yours?
"I like to get on well with everybody, I'm a man of my word and I always try to respect the others."