Dakar: Face to Face, day eight

Face to face January 7, 2006 Simon Droux, wild for open space and escape Simon Droux walks around and around in the bivouac. He has just finished the stage but his team of mechanics has yet to arrive. So, he props his bike on its kickstand in...

Face to face
January 7, 2006

Simon Droux, wild for open space and escape

Simon Droux walks around and around in the bivouac. He has just finished the stage but his team of mechanics has yet to arrive. So, he props his bike on its kickstand in the middle of the service area, removes his helmet and walks a few paces to stimulate his tired muscles. Yet, this man with a never-ending smile tells us: " My spirits are better. This morning I was really ready to quit. I was fed up battling with the bike. As I am 62-years young, this year I chose a lighter two-wheel drive motorcycle. And it is really hard to get on with. Sometimes it's the front wheel that pulls another time it's the rear...It's really dicey when you're not used to it. But today, I think I found something: you have to ride standing up...and for these old bones; it's not the best thing. "

But Simon isn't complaining, despite falls that are multiplying. " I fall everyday. Yet I don't take any risks, but there is always a stone or a hole that will send you flying. So, I have gone for a couple of nice tumbles. The best one was when a car hit me from behind two days ago. I was thrown from the bike. I got up straight away and when the driver got out of his car I gave him a real bollocking. He looked relieved that I wasn't seriously injured and then we took off. Since, I've had a bit of neck and back pain but I haven't needed to visit the doctors, because if I did they would send me home. "

Recently retired, today Simon races to make up for lost time, from being cooped up in an office. He now searches for ways to satisfy his desire for wide-open spaces and escape. " For nearly ten years, I have taken part in rally-raids in Tunisia, the Dakar and elsewhere. I have gone in search of calm of which I wasn't able to for many a year. And as long as I feel I have the energy to do so I will continue to. The day that I stop it will signify that I have become too old, " he concludes as he makes his way to the bivouac for dinner. He meets up with one or two mates, for tales of African travels. Together they re-live the day's stage over a glass and a hot meal before each one retires to his own space. Simon sleeps in his tent, to finally rest his wary bones.

But the following day beholds the final blow. Leaving for the long route to Zouerat, the expedition turns into an ordeal after just ten kilometres of the special stage. Distracted, Simon took nearly an eternity to find his way. Too late to retake the start, he is disqualified. More difficult than the desert are the regulations.

Joviality as a passport
Francisco Arredondo

He asks for just a minute to take off his boots. In his hand, he holds a very northern energetic meal. " It's good ", he says softly with a smile. No more than ceremonial, Francisco is ready to tell his story. The round face, joviality his passport, this 28-year old Guatemalan is suffering on the Dakar. He has just finished one of the highlight stages of the 2006 Dakar. He doesn't' make a big deal of it. Finishing 61st on his bike at Atar he is the lone amateur from Central America.

For Francisco the Dakar began one day over a meal at home. He was just 12-years old. And he listened to the adults. On that day, his father invited a doctor friend of his, Carlos Romero to their home in Guatemala City. And the Argentinean friend recounted an incredible tale to young Franny. He had competed with a car on a race that crossed Africa. Francisco pauses and insists, while his mechanic tends to the number 129 bike. " Do you understand! I heard someone talk about a thing from another planet! It was about Paris, of Dakar! " 16 years later, Francisco still seems captivated by the revelation.

Today, he is participating in his third rally and he remains an alien for his friends and family. " It is very difficult to explain and made understood. Personally, I have travelled a lot and that helps a little to reinforce my spirit of adventure and it made my dream of Dakar a reality. " Four years as a student at the University of Sacred Heart in Connecticut in the United States and a year and a half in Luxembourg to complete his masters degree in economics, Francisco has a high speed passion for life and its responsibilities. And he also looks after the football club that won the 2005 Guatemalan Municipal championship. He says he is happy with all of this, but he also says that the Dakar doesn't stop fascinating him: " All these people who risk everything for nothing... ". Francisco knows he is an anomaly of his continent: " I didn't find a single sponsor and no one else from Central America is taking part. Firstly, because it is expensive and secondly, Latinos do not like to organise things so far in advance. In Europe, even people who don't have a large budget make the effort to get a loan. "

Francisco hopes to arrive in Dakar to erase his retirements from 2004 and 2005. To complete his childhood dream. And, in a very large way, make his family proud who will be there on January 15. His father, Francisco, his mother Beatriz and sister Arizbet. " Know that without their support, I would have never been able to do this. " The adventure just to the end of the desert, but never without family!


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Series Dakar
Drivers Francisco Arredondo