Dakar: Face to Face, day six

Face to Face January 5, 2006 moto: A simple story Remi Bonjean (no. 170) Remi Bonjean doesn't make much fuss. He's a laid-back fellow from the mountains who epitomizes the straightforwardness of the folk in his native Isere region. Every ...

Face to Face
January 5, 2006

moto: A simple story
Remi Bonjean (no. 170)

Remi Bonjean doesn't make much fuss. He's a laid-back fellow from the mountains who epitomizes the straightforwardness of the folk in his native Isere region. Every evening, on arriving at the bivouac, he takes off his helmet and stretches out quietly, to soothe his body bruised by the hours spent on his bike. Nevertheless, he is savoring every second of his big adventure, without worrying about the ranking. "I've seen too many bikers obsessed with the result go flying when trying to catch up with a competitor 3 minutes ahead of them, then go home after two stages. All that to gain one place, or even two... It really isn't worth it." Consequently, right from the start in Lisbon, he has been riding at his own pace. And every now and then, at a dry river bed or some other hazard, he chances across his old pal Pascal Schandelmayer and they continue on the route together, evoking memories of their first African raids. "We met each other on the Friendship Raid. We were both discovering Africa and fell in love with her at the same time", recalls Remi. "Even today, we've had a great time. We went off the track five hundred meters or so, just the two of us making our own trail, far from the others' fumes. It was fantastic, one of those moments that make you forget the fatigue and hassles. That kind of thing is what the Dakar is all about."

So Remi moves along steadily, a picture of calm and serenity. This evening, like every other, he returns before nightfall. He moves conscientiously around his bike, examining the tire wear and sighing: "I hope they'll last until the rest day." After a few routine adjustments, he opens the trunk that is his world on the Dakar to look at the photo of his wife and daughter, before phoning them. "It's just a quick call, a few minutes to tell each other we're ok." And then Remi's off to bed, as the alarm call for the start of the Tan Tan -- Zouerat stage is scheduled for 1.00 in the morning. He is adapting to these conditions gradually, as he bids to keep his dream of reaching Lake Rose alive. When asked about his ideal rally debut and his dream that draws nearer by the day, he smiles calmly and refuses to get carried away. "Touch wood (he raises a hand to his face!), but everything's gone pretty well so far."

moto: She'll be back
Rosa Romero

She is alone, a lost soul standing in front of trunk no. 40, her boots, jacket and helmet lying around on the ground. She is bustling about clumsily, removing the personal effects inside as best she can. Around her, the bikers who have completed their stage are putting up their tents or checking the departure time for the next day. Rosa is already beyond all that. Dressed in a T-shirt, bomber jacket and jeans, she's preparing to go home. For Robert Otger, her water-carrier, has taken a fall, suffering a dislocated ankle with seven thousand kilometers still to travel. As a result, he is quitting, and she cannot carry on alone. From Barcelona, the calls flood in urging her to continue with the adventure. But her husband Nani Roma is having none of it.

So without having fallen or being eliminated, she's pulling out of this Dakar that had gradually become her big dream. At the tender age of 18, Rosa set off alone on her Cagiva 600 for ten days exploring Morocco. Since then, this IT technician with two daughters has built up her life and her sporting track record, competing in dozens of endurance races in Spain despite the lack of a women's category. After a long wait, the big moment finally came when Nani agreed to her entering the Dakar, ironically in the care of his lifelong friend Otger.

"We were riding fast in parallel. We were lost, and my road book wasn't working. I saw the danger, but he didn't and fell heavily. I was afraid, but we were able to get back to the bivouac. Whenever he put any weight on his foot, it was murder." There is anxiety in her voice as she speaks, she who had been going so well. Now, at the end of the second Moroccan stage, she's defeated through no fault of her own. "Nani didn't finish his first bike rally either because he fell on the second Moroccan stage too," she adds, almost managing a smile despite her evident tension. In fact, she is on the verge of tears. "If there were only two days of the Dakar left, we would soldier on. We could have found a solution..." Otger, hobbling around on his crutches, blames himself. "She's returning because of me."

Before the start, she had commented: "Everyone warns me that it's very tough, but I don't yet know just how tough they mean." Since the events of Tuesday, she certainly does. Her abandonment is all the crueler for her not having envisaged it. "I can't believe I'm going home," she adds. "Before, Nani told me, 'finish this Dakar and then that's it.' But the Dakar dream remains unrealized, a fact of which Rosa, in her disappointment, is all too painfully aware.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Nani Roma , Rosa Romero