Dakar: Face to Face, day 14

Face to face January 13, 2006 bike: Desert Samurai Hideki Kashiwa ( n212) He can't go on but he's not complaining. He simply smiles. A tired physique and a politeness from the soul mixed in one lone stance. In the surrounding chaos of the ...

Face to face
January 13, 2006

bike: Desert Samurai
Hideki Kashiwa ( n212)

He can't go on but he's not complaining. He simply smiles. A tired physique and a politeness from the soul mixed in one lone stance. In the surrounding chaos of the assistance vehicles, Hideki Kashiwa, a noble biker from the land of the rising sun, savours every second. Standing next to him time seems to stand still. Wearing heavy orange leathers, he parks himself into a folding chair in the tent of the Sugawaras, father and son, who are competing in the truck race. It's here that each night the Dakar's small Japanese community reunites to enjoy miso soup and a bowl of ramen and stay together in the face of adversity.

At 52-years of age, Kashiwa knows the Dakar all too well having covered numerous editions as a journalist. Before deciding to take part in the adventure, because, according to Hideki: "we speak better about something we have done ourselves, especially the nightmares of the bike riders". To participate on the Dakar was also a dream for this motorcycle enthusiast who became an instructor at his own riding school in Tokyo. First, he tried the Safari Rally in Australia. And it was thanks to a happy combination of circumstances that he lined at the start of the Granada-Dakar in 1996. "I met Jean-Claude Olivier (President of Yamaha France), who gave me the motivation and logistical support. He provided me with a XTZ 850...the same bike as Stephane Peterhansel". Bad luck, "Hide" retired with a fuel problem...like "Peter". But the following year, he got some dazzling revenge, completing the lap around the Senegalese capital in 35th place.

If Hideki Kashiwa is back this year on the Dakar after an eight year absence it's because of one lone catch phrase: "ride around Lake Rose while enjoying myself". Yet, it is difficult to pierce the psychological mysteries of this reserved man; His many crashes in Morocco and Mauritania have taken a cruel toll on his body, including a dislocated shoulder, a broken rib and a large leg bruise. Nevertheless, he says he had a ball navigating in the dunes and finally confesses, "The Dakar is a strong engine in my life. I am naturally anxious...so, participating in this rally has taught me to cope with my personal issues".

So as the caravan set off yesterday for Bamako in Mali, towards Labe in Guinea, jersey number 212 was at the point of reaching his sworn goal: to be the first 50 something Japanese rider to make it to Dakar.

bike: Stephane Hamard, reasonable is right

He is very far from his home of Reunion Island, its beaches set in the hollow of opalescent lagoons, far from the stone lined routes that serpentine from Saint-Denis to Sainte-Rose, traversing the circuses of Cilaos and Szalasi just to the foot of a volcano. Yet Stephane is in his element, in the midst of an adventure that he chose to endure alone, without assistance. A question of money, yes, but also and more importantly to experience the essence of the Dakar. "I don't have any assistance, so I maintain the bike. I can't afford to wear the bike out during the day and spend a good portion of the night repairing it. So, I ride at 70% never reaching the breaking point. That is to say, I try to finish not too late, to have time to 'care for my bike', rest and set off early the following morning." For Stephane, one thing is sure, he will be at Dakar.

But, there are dreams, but then there is theory and practicality, often more bitter, and crueller. The wrong tyre choice on the first African special stage, a puncture broke his rhythm...Stephane reached the breaking point. So, the next morning, He ran hard to catch up the lead group. "On the second Moroccan stage, I was really good and I overtook a hundred or so riders. That got me back on a proper rhythm to take on Mauritania." But the Dakar is not a race of consistency. The cadence must be followed...always faster. "On the Nouakchott stage, concentration was crucial. But as I accelerated, the bike got away from me. I tried to hold down and I ended up stuck in the rocks. Right away I could feel that I injured my ankle. I tightened my boots to finish the stage, but that night, I understood my pain." The doctor's diagnosis: A severe sprain that needed to be seriously looked at.

Stephane now rode a lot more cautiously even if the throttle still tickled his fingers just a bit. "Sometimes, I wanted to open up the throttle, but from that point on I had to preserve myself. The most important thing is to correctly handle situations when they present themselves. By staying clam I have this ability to analyse and I believe that with something like the Dakar it is a strong point." For speed thrills, road and enduro racing, he will wait until he returns home. For the moment, he savours, takes advantage and is stunned by the scenery he discovers. "I had such a great time seeing Mauritania. In just one day you can really see the geographical changes and changes in the terrain. I am waiting to see a lot more new scenery. But what I remember the most so far are the soft sand dunes of Mauritania. It is very surprising."

Since, he has discovered Mali with its twisty tracks that criss-cross in a strange canvas, its villages overflowing with warm smiles and Guinea, green, tropical and surprising...and other riches that he didn't suspect. "The Dakar is an incredible thing. It's hard, that's true, very hard even. But sincerely, it is really worth it;"


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Series Dakar
Drivers Stéphane Peterhansel