Families, the competitors' other teams The arrival of the Dakar in South America saw the confirmation and development of a trend: families that support and follow their competitor to the other end of the world. The dominant relationship is that...
Families, the competitors' other teams
The arrival of the Dakar in South America saw the confirmation and development of a trend: families that support and follow their competitor to the other end of the world. The dominant relationship is that of father and son. For a different look at how riders and drivers experience the Dakar, here is a small 'family tree' of the 2010 edition.
Olivier Pain knows how special stages on this Dakar end. It is not his time or his ranking that awaits him, but his father. "I give him a salad, something to drink and I'm right behind him during the entire link stage if ever there is a problem". Half-way between sporting manager and moral support, Christian Pain sees himself as more of a "comfort assistant" for his son. He is the embodiment of a trend that is developing on the Dakar: a competitor's family follows him, or even takes part in the adventure, like the father of the French biker currently occupying 8th place in the general standings. "I haven't got a clear role, but we've always been together. My presence here does him as much good as me". Christian Pain is the assistance vehicle driver but also webmaster for the rider's blog: teamtop-skyblog
As for young Chilean rider Claudio Rodriguez, the composition is the same but the situation is different. Whilst he is well supported by his father, it is mainly due to a lack of resources. His team, Tamarugal, did not have the required budget to hire a bike mechanic but had enrolled one for the event. As a result, Sergio, a machine operator at a mine in Copiapo, made his appearance on the Dakar where he now deals with mechanical matters each evening for his son. "On the rally, I help and advise him, because he is very disorganised: he doesn't tidy his helmet away and he'd never go to sleep if I didn't tell him. I make sure he looks after himself". At the bivouac in Santiago, on Wednesday at 4.30 in the morning, they were tucking into their breakfast. The Husqvarna was ready. Claudio, already in his overalls, drank a coffee with his dad, just like at home. Over the last few days, Sergio's advice was geared to calm the fervour of his son, 34th in the general standings, and second Chilean, behind "Chaleco", on completion of the tenth stage: "He must think about finishing. He's done the hardest part. People have seen that Claudio has got talent. It may open doors for him. We've made sacrifices so he can take part in this sport".
Another Chilean, another set-up. Manuel Jamett is on his own at the bivouac and on the tracks. But each day on his arrival at the encampment, he leaves his Yamaha and exits the camp. He does not have to walk far to reach his family's small motor-home. "He stays for 2 or 3 hours, returning to and coming back from the bivouac occasionally. We talk, and that does him good," explains his father Luis Plasencia, 50 years old and a tourist operator in Arica. The Jamett fan club is also made up of his brother Luis, 13 years old, his sister Roxana, 21 years old, and his mother Roxana, 43 years old, not forgetting his uncle Juan Carlos, who shares driving duties. However, if rider number 129 participates next year, he will be completely on his own: "He needs to become independent," explains Luis.
Whilst father and son relationships are the most common type of support, there are many different scenarios. For example, the sons of Christine and Frederic Favre drive their parents' assistance vehicle; the fiancee of the second placed rider in the general standings, Pal Anders Ullevalseter, accompanies him from bivouac to bivouac; and finally, the entire Patronelli family are using four vehicles to follow Marcos and Alejandro, just like last year. The families are becoming part of the decor, and it isn't the competitors who will complain about that...