Dakar Daily by Scott Cox Monday January 15, 2007 - Stage 9 Chris Blais in His Own Words: Chris Blais via satellite phone from Monday's Stage 9 bivouac in Nema, Mauritania. Still on the gas after many days of punishment, he finished 6th today...
Dakar Daily by Scott Cox
Monday January 15, 2007 - Stage 9
Chris Blais in His Own Words:
Chris Blais via satellite phone from Monday's Stage 9 bivouac in Nema, Mauritania. Still on the gas after many days of punishment, he finished 6th today and is now 4th overall.
"After 9 stages I'm still here, I still feel pretty good, and I have to agree that as the promoters advertised things have gotten serious. Yesterday (stage #8) was definitely the longest and most difficult day so far. Very early yesterday I got stuck 3-times and really found it tough to dig myself out. By kilometer 30 I thought I'd used up everything I had but somehow I got my act together and pushed on. Those sand dunes were really kicking my ass but even in spite of losing a little time it still turned out to be a pretty good day for me.
"Fortunately I haven't had to suffer like many of the other guys have. Marc Coma (Respol KTM #1) went down in the rocks hard and banged himself up and that was true for some of the other fast guys, too. There have been a lot of mechanical breakdowns and each day more riders are forced to drop out. Today Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM #2) crashed and had trouble with his navigation gear from the start."
NOTE: As it turns out, Despres had to navigate manually scrolling his roadbook throughout today's special test section. Here's how Despres described it: "Yesterday (Sunday) during the assistance evening, I must have lost my mechanical skills. This morning (Monday) at the start of the special stage, there was a wire loose in the road book. I had to scroll through it manually all day. It's as if I had to twist candy-frost on a stick for 7 hours straight at a fun fair. So I had to pay even closer attention. Additionally, being physically tired, I had to be extra focused!
Chris Blais: "Today (Monday, 1/15/07) was a good day. I rode better than yesterday but I crashed like an idiot when reaching to get a drink of water. I should have been paying better attention but I'm Ok -- a little sore now, sitting here talking to you on the phone, but when I'm on the bike and racing I don't have any problems. Matt (Spencer) has been doing an awesome job on my bike and equipment and the Doc (Dr. Johnathan Edwards) is all over the place making sure that I'm taken care of and ready to go for the next stage. We really have a great team."
An old friend checks in: Andy Grider, 2006 Red Bull KTM U.S. Dakar team veteran 2007 navigator for #320 Robby Gordon Hummer This year Andy Grider has traded his KTM in for a shotgun ride in Robby Gordon's #320 Hummer. Andy's ride was cut short last year after a fantastic early stage performances when he crashed out in Morocco.
"It's been a lot of fun this year," said Andy. "A lot different riding in a car (the Hummer) a lot less taxing than piloting a motorcycle. I have gotten to know Robby (Gordon) and find him to be a very likable guy. Not at all what you sometimes read about in the press. Ours is a team of Dakar rookies, other than Robby and one of the other guys, but so far we are doing pretty well."
"Overall our Hummer has been a very good vehicle. We could use a little more top end (175 kilometers per hour max versus 190 kph for the Misubishis and 215 khp for the Jean-Marie Schlesser car) but it really does a great job in the technical stuff and Robby is a fantastic driver. Yeah, we can just all get along."
Love in the dunes When I spoke with Chris and Andy this morning...They both made a point about how much the teams, riders and drivers do in fact get along and support each other. Imagine, Americans reporting from abroad with good news about their own international relations.
Chris Blais: "I hang out with the other the other riders and teams including the Respol (Coma) and Gauloises (Despres) teams. And we get along, no problem. I haven't experienced any negativity."
Andy Grider: "I want people to know how much the Dakar is like good old fashioned off-road racing bacl home. Regardless of who you are or who you ride or drive for, we're all in this together and every day our fellow competitors look in on us to see if we're Ok, and to ask if they can help us. The VW team is huge here - the main show - and each night they check up on us. It's great."
-credit: scott cox