Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Stage 14. FINISH. I made it!

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel 

STAGE 14: DAKAR-DAKAR (69 km)


Sunday 13/1 2002

FINISH. I made it!

Finally, after days and nights through long stages in gruelling conditions. I’m in Dakar. 

I have been longing for this day… just going to wrap up the last short 30 km stage to the end in the podium by the legendary Lac Rose, the pink lake. 

In the morning all remaining competitors gathered on the Dakar beach before start to eat breakfast together. Fantastic to hang out with all “survivors” hugging and telling the stories of our adventure. 


After breakfast the stage started on the beach, a wave of bikes flying along the water line. 

When the starter flagged us on, there was a 10 km stretch on the beach to go. Awesome feeling to fly along the beach as the waves were braking onto the sand.

Then we turned inland on difficult sandy tracks, taking us further onto hard full flat out finish by the Lac Rose. 

To ride up on the podium finishing 54:th and get the Dakar-medal felt absolutely unreal. 

Only 59 bikes made it, out of the 175 that started! That means we were only 1/3 (33%) that finished. 

I’m also the winner of the Production 400cc class, I was the only one to make it an a STANDARD 400cc!

It feels unbelievable to finish the worlds toughst rally with a broken right hand, the leg bruise and despite all the drama and mishaps like a burnt cluch… but I made it!

This is my biggest ever achieve t in my life, and I can’t say it was the perfect way to do it. But I did. And it feels great. I am now a super hero. 

The Dakar organisers and cantina crew gave me an applause after finishing, which made me very happy, because they’ve seen my injuries, and how tired and hungry I’ve been every day.

Now I won’t have to ride my bike again for while. I will eat, shower and sleep. 


STAGE 14: 

DAKAR-DAKAR
Sunday 13/1 2002

Liaison : 38 km 
Special : 31 km 
Total : 69 km

Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Stage 13: Marathon, Part 2. 1472 km.  36 hours. I made it. 

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel 

STAGE 13 Marathon, Part 2: KIFFA-DAKAR (1011 km)


Liaison : 450 km 
Special : 165 km 
Liaison : 396 km 

Marathon stage part 2.

After just one hour of sleep, time to get on with the second part of this last part of the marathon starting at 2.25 AM,  covering 1011 km.  

The morning liason took forever and I had to stop several times to “wake up”. The African roads are really bad, and suddenly they are cut off, and diverted. In the dark that is a death trap. If you’re not quite awake, it’s easy to tumble down one of those cut offs…

Happy when dawn was breaking. Breakfast was served the start of the “short” special. Before I started I again had to open the carburettor and cleaned it, emptied it on clay! Found a crack in the rear fuel tank where the dirt gets through. Nothing I could do about it now, just get on with the stage. 

The special was the most enjoyable of the entire rally, winding sandy tracks over light green savannah landscape scattered with trees. I was flying, feeling this was the best moment of my Dakar. 

Further on I caught up with the Swedish car team again. So happy to see Rosenblad/Roos in their Toyota, that means they are still in the race! 

I waited for them after the finish of the special just to celebrate giving each other big hugs. Then we found a local car wash and cleaned off layers of mud. 

Now we are almost in Dakar – just 400 kilometres liasion again. That took a long time again, I had I stoats clean the carburettor again. But it didn’t matter to me, I was going to reach Dakar, how ever late.

I arrived around midnight, and Patrick in Team Challenge 75 awaited to greet me. 
I’ve been on my bike for approx 36 hours, with only 1 hour of sleep. I’m totally knackered. But incredibly happy. 

Finally I’m here. In Dakar. 

Tomorrow just the little loop to reach the finish in Lac Rose.


STAGE 13, Second Marathon Stage: 

TICHIT-KIFFA (461 km)
Friday 11/1 2002
Special : 457 km 
Liaison : 4 km

     [break 2 hours]

KIFFA-DAKAR (1012 km)
Saturday 12/1 2002
Liaison : 450 km 
Special : 165 km 
Liaison : 396 km 

Total : 1 472 km

Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Stage 13: Marathon, Part 1

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel

STAGE 13, Marathon Part 1: TICHIT-KIFFA (461 km)

Friday 11/1 – Saturday 12/1 2002

Another gruelling marathon stage of a total 1 472 km, just to kill off the last reserve of energy within me… and remember, no service. 

Marathon stage part 1.

Rain the entire day which made the sand very heavy and rutted. The rain also transferred the “dry lake beds” into slippery mud field, that were almost impossible to get through with my little 400 now with very worn tyres. One mud lake was more than 10 km to cross and I skidded down on my side countless times as my feet would not reach the ground when I had to hold up the bike. I was all covered in mud thinking I’d never get across. In all those side landings I hurt my butt again and it started to ache. 

Things continued to “screw up”, the carburettor failed again and I could not get the bike to run after a fall, cost me at least an hour. Smashed the headlight mount just before dark, so the last 100 km I rode trying to find my way with headlights pointing to the left. It took about 5 hours + more falls. Arrived at the half way check point after midnight, totally trashed of tiredness. The supposed 6 hour rest was shortened, only 2 hours before restart. 

Ate, refuelled and managed to get one hour of sleep in the food tent. 

To be continued…


STAGE 13, Second Marathon Stage: 

TICHIT-KIFFA 

Friday 11/1 – Saturday 12/1 2002

Special : 457 km 
Liaison : 4 km

     [break 6 hours]

KIFFA-DAKAR 

Liaison : 450 km 
Special : 165 km 
Liaison : 396 km 
Total : 1 472 km

Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Stage 11 continues. Stage 12 cancelled. 

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel 

STAGE 11: continues. 
STAGE 12: cancelled. 

Stage 11 continued from yesterday. 
Rolled in my silver blanket trying to sleep in the rain storm, I heard the organisation sweeper truck approaching, and their headlights were aimed at me. When theypulled over and asked if I was ok, I said yes. Will you quit the race? No. Absolutely not, I will rest and then continue tomorrow at sunrise. That was fine with them and they drove on. 

At the first glimpse of dawn I got up, freezing cold and partly wet clothes. Brushed off the sand and started up the bike. 

It was much easier finding a good way across the dune passage when I could see where I was going, even if it was still a sand storm. 

On the other side I could se camp fires in the far distance, and aimed at them. When I arrived I could see there were many competitors and also organisers who had gathered at the Check point trapped by the night storm. 

The competitors had all given up. No one was going to continue. 

But I said, I will ride until they lift me off the bike and just continue…

The storm was still very bad, and strong wind gusts made riding difficult and dangerous sometimes sending me a few meters off the course. Better not get blown off an edge down a ravine. 

At mid day I arrived to the finish of the stage, and was told that I could refuel and drive directly to the start of the next, stage 12. So I did. 

I stamped my time card at the start and took off again, but after just a short while started meeting bikers and cars coming the opposite way, waving me to turn around. 

I asked what the problem was, and was told that the storm was so bad no helicopter or organisation vehicles trapped on stage 11 could guarantee our safety in the storm, the race director had cancelled the stage 12. 

So everybody turned back to the bivouack. And I had time to recuperate from my hellish night. 

The race for me now is about making it to the finish. I don’t care about positions anymore. Surviving is just fine.

Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Stage 11

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel.

STAGE 11: TIDJIKJA-TICHIT (538 km)
Wednesday 9/1 2002.

Through hell and rain storm…

Last night I couldn’t sleep the few hours until start, so I was already dead tired taking off again in the morning. 

The softest of Mauritanian sand was on the menu, and I had to rev my little 400 like mad to keep up any kind of speed, and I heard the engine struggling and heating up. 

Many competitors were stuck in soft sand bowls in the dune, and trying to avoid them when traversing the dunes was extremely difficult. I was picking my own lines and didn’t get stuck, but still I felt the bike was loosing power, not giving me the drive I needed in the dunes. And then loosing the drive completely, didn’t matter how much I gassed, the rear wheel didn’t turn and the bike came to a stop – I could smell the burnt clutch.

I pulled out my tool kit and opened the clutch case and black smoke of gear box oil steamed in my face. I tried to bend the clutch plates to give them more grip, but no success. 

Could this be it, my Dakar was over? I was in disbelief. I had faught so hard through pain and technical issues, and now the race had ended. It felt unfair. But also a little relief, it wasn’t me that had given up. The bike died on me. 

I parked the bike to rest in the shade of it to wait for the organiser truck to pick me up. I knew it could take many hours…

Don’t know how much later, but I could se the Swedish car team Roos/Rosenblad coming through the dunes. They stopped to check on me, and gave me some Swedish candy to comfort me in my misery, before driving off again. 

Then I saw a biker approaching me slowly. It was a French guy on a Honda 400, and he stopped and asked me about my problem. I told him the situation with the clutch, and he nodded his head and said that was pretty normal for these bikes. Luckily he had brought a spare clutch-plate, and he offered it to me! 

Again I opened the clutch and put the spare plate in. I didn’t have any more oil, so I made sure not to waste any of the burnt oil left in the engine, and tried avoiding any sand to blow into when doing my mechanical work. And miraculously the bike was drivable again. I had been saved by an angel on a motorbike. 

It was already 4 pm and I had more than 300 km to the finish, so was in a rush. I continued my Dakar again, pushing as much as I dared, and passed the French biker “angel” and soon the Swedish car team. 

At 6 pm the sun set and now the riding became extremely dangerous in the dunes. Planning your route through in daytime is difficult. In pitch dark it can be deadly not being able to see what awaits behind the crest. I slowly traversed dune after dune. At midnight I reached a steep dune traversing but could not build up enough speed to reach the top. I tried to find other ways round but ended up in more trouble and losing my way. I realised I had to wait until dawn to be able to get across. As I shad stopped the Swedish car team caught up again, and also they were struggling and digging but decided to try and find their way in the night. I didn’t want to risk crashing or burning the clutch again so I decided to sleep by my bike a few hours. Another biker decided to stop there also, italian Massimo Tresoldi. We unpacked our safety blankets and rolled ourselves in them, by our bikes as the cold nightly desert wind picked. After a while we were trapped in a sand storm, and then I heard rain drops hitting my foil blanket.

I was half asleep trying to ignore the rain puddle I was now lying in. 

I could not believe all this was happening in one day. But I just had to accept. And await sunrise. 

To be continued…

STAGE 11: TIDJIKJA-TICHIT
Wednesday 9/1 2002

Liaison : 18 km 
Special : 520 km 
Total : 538 km

Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Stage 10

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel.

STAGE 10: ATAR-TIDJIKJA (502 km)
Tuesday 8/1 2002.  

A very long day… and half the night.

Start of the stage was same as yesterday, already rutted with tracks everywhere. Riding was ok, just keep spot on navigation not to follow wrong tracks. 

Approaching the orange dunes of Mauritania that are famous for being really soft and almost unrideable. Immediately my front wheel dug in like half a meter when I tried to find my own lines through the dunes. Decided I’m going to stay in the tracks even if they are also difficult drive maintaining sufficient speed with the under-powered 400, but at least will be no sudden surprises. 

Many riders, including me, struggled fighting through the fluffy sand, going everywhere without real control just trying to keep up the speed not to sink into the “orange velvet”.

The I caught an experienced old(er) French biker with 10 Dakar rallies under his belt, and decided to follow him to learn the tricks of how to pitch the good lines. It worked, no more tumbled or dig-ins. But he was way to slow, and I left him behind…

Arriving to the last check-point and refuel before the finish, just as the sun was setting. This meant the last 100 km I had to ride in the dark through the desert. Riding in daylight was difficult, imagine in the dark only with the standard headlight. 

Luckily I could join forces with another rider, #162 on a Honda 650. He needed navigation help from me because he had smashed his nav equipment. And I needed his big headlight to shine the way. 

It took us half the night to complete the 100 km, not only going slowly, but his fuel tank was also leaking so we had to stop and I gave him a couple of litres every 20 km. Also my Roadbook-holder kept breaking off it’s mount since my “face-plant” the other day. Adding a few tumbles in the soft sand due Roland k of speed. Thought we were never going to make it through the night, and then we could se the flashing light of the stage finish in the distance… finally. 

That means only two hours of sleep. I’m so never riding in the dark again, it’s terrible and it’s dangerous. 

The rally has changed after rest day, it’s much harder riding and navigating now. Lack of sleep and fever wears me down, as the broken hand and bruised leg. 

The sand in Mauritania is different from the sand I know from Morocco, its much more unpredictable and soft in patches, big black rocks luring just underneath the smooth surface, waiting to take you down. High alert in navigation and reading the sand in front of you. 

STAGE 10: ATAR-TIDJIKJA
Tuesday 8/1 2002

Liaison : 33 km 
Special : 467 km 
Liaison : 2 km 
Total : 502 km

Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Stage 9

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel 

STAGE 9, Loop: ATAR-ATAR (404 km)
Monday 7/1 2002

“It’s been a shit day”. 

Today’s special stage of 366 km started out good. Riding cautiously on very soft sand. Suddenly I did a real “face plant” hitting a rock hidden in the sand. Smashed the navigation tower and wind shield, so spent some time fixing it. 

Also hit both my thighs as I tumbled over the handle bars.

It felt so unfair and I lost a bit of confidence, riding even slower feeling unsure what next was hiding in the sand. The secret to riding in soft sand you red to keep up the momentum and surf on top, and going slower will only break the flow and make you struggle. 

So I struggled and completed the stage, hoping tomorrow was going to be better.

And most important, I was still in the race, which wasn’t the case of Swedish top biker P-G Lundmark who retired with a broken clutch. 

Now it’s “only” the remaining half of the rally to go…

 

STAGE 9, Loop: ATAR-ATAR
Monday 7/1 2002

Liaison : 33 km 
Special : 366 km 
Liaison : 5 km 
Total : 404 km

Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Rest day

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel 

REST DAY: ATAR
Sunday 6/1 2002

I am so glad it is the rest day today. Well, rest means cleaning and servicing. 

Lovely, I am going to take a hot bath. Normally we shower in cold water but I found an old laundry tub here that I just managed to sit in and have been splashing around in for a while. What a wonderful luxury! I hadn’t combed my hair for a week so I must have looked terrible. 

Then washing up clothes and cleaning out my box. 

Also the bike will get a good service, oil and filters, and change of drive chain. 

The whole time I’m under huge pressure as the time schedule is very tight. There has been no time to rest during the week also feeling more and more exhausted. Every day it is just time for the basics, “must eat and must sleep” that is essential. It is important to preserve as much energy as possible and I notice that all my energy must be focused in the riding. I have also realised that the Dakar is far tougher than I ever imagined. I am very grateful for the fantastic help that I am getting from Patrick servicing my Honda. Without his help I would have suffered way more. 

I still have a fever and feeling a bit weak, but I am well enough to keep going in the race tomorrow!

Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Stage 8

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel

STAGE 8: ZOUERAT-ATAR (396 km)
Saturday 5/1 2002

Counting down to rest day… It’s getting really tough now. Riding with a fever for the last 3 days, and my injured hand and thigh is wearing me down.

After yesterday’s stage I just crashed into my tent exhausted and with fever. Last night I woke up many times soaked in sweat of fever, and had to change t-shirt three times. Also I missed out on the evening’s riders briefing, where the organisers informed about a change on the course.

In today’s stage I paid the price of not getting the change of race course! It was tough to realise after an hour’s riding that the organization had added an extra check point, so all I could do was to head back, and luckily found it despite not having the correct road book instructions.

When I was back on track again there were lots of dune riding. As I was very tired and weak I was riding too low a pace and I kept on falling off. The falling off bit was not too bad except sometimes landing on my “blue side”. At one point though, my bike would not start again and I lost an hour getting it going, cleaning the carb and letting the engine cool down. 

At refuel I checked my position, 95th overall. That was a surprise, but the marshals told me many had got stuck or been lost in the dunes before finding the right way. 

I was so happy when I crossed the finish line already arriving about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, even if I lost two hours on mishaps. Many riders arrived much, much, later that evening.

Now time to eat, sleep and rest. 
A little bonus – at the camp site I found a washboard with laundry tub. Perfect! The tub wasn’t big, but I could just manage to sit down in it and have a hot bath, instead of the cold bucket of water in the bivouack.


STAGE 8: ZOUERAT-ATAR
Saturday 5/1 2002

Liaison : 9 km 
Special : 383 km 
Liaison : 4 km 
Total : 396 km

Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel – Stage 7: Marathon, Part 2

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Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel 

STAGE 7: Marathon  Part 2
TAN-TAN-ZOUERAT (752 km)
Friday 4/1 2002 

After the six hour break in the marathon stage, I started the second 752 km long part in the middle of the night at 2.32 am.

I almost fell asleep on the morning road section, struggling to stay awake. At the start of the special the organisers served a quick outdoors breakfast at sunrise. There I met the Swedish car team Roos/Rosenblad again as they rolled in when I was about to leave.

The special went really well, just missing one turn off, but I wasn’t the only one. I was gassing full throttle on the little 400 for it to keep up the speed in the more sandy and soft terrain. Still I had to downshift because lack of power, we’re not as fast as the bigger bikes although we did as good as we could. Good stage arriving 88th at the finish, and just before sunset! Finally some warmer temperature in Mauritania, first time I could wear shorts.

Exhausted after the 1545 km marathon, I felt like in a haze of fever and pain. I just wanted to lie down and rest, after having a cold shower, almost missing the dinner. Thankfully Norwegian rider Pål Anders Ullevålseter came by and woke me up.

One more day to go before we reach the half way rest day. Then I will ha e time to sleep and recover a little.


STAGE 7: Marathon Part 2

TAN-TAN-ZOUERAT, 752 km
Friday 4/1 2002
Liaison : 365 km
Special : 371 km
Liaison : 16 km