Annie faced a very hard day yesterday, Stage 12 Fiambala-La Rioja. During the whole day the mechanics and myself were not able to get detailed information about what happened and we were all very worried as it appeared she would be stuck between CP2 and the end of the special stage. Laurent, her mechanic, his teammates and myself were running up and down all evening between CPO and the service truck in order to read Iritrack data. We only got information from some drivers passing by. We knew a helicopter had landed to help her, but no more.
Finally at 2:00 am Annie made it back to the bivouac. Annie fell between CP2 and the end of the stage. She injured her shoulder which was already suffering from a ligament problem. In a lot of pain, exhausted she was helped by a teammate motorbiker to get up and a helicopter came to bandage her.
She did not give up and kept going, and eventually reached the end of the stage. Because she already had passed CP2, the information that the special stage had been shortened by the organization did not reach her – maybe??? She fought for ending the original special stage, in pain, without need.
All professional drivers criticized very badly the difficulty of this particular stage. Many said it has been the most difficult stage in their life. Hard to imagine what this means. Just too much! Too dangerous, many of them say.
The organization decided to shorten the second part of the special stage (after CP2) when cars, trucks and bikes were stuck at the bottom of high dunes, with no engine power left, due to the effect high altitude over 4000 metres has on fuel engines if the carburator is not adapted to the conditions.
I was shocked when Annie told me that cars and trucks, because they were not able to climb the dunes from one side, they would be forced to take a u-turn and drive full speed against the direction motorbikers were driving. Bikers would face cars and trucks with the risk of a frontal impact.
I accompanied Annie to the medics at 2:30 am. Annie wanted to be bandaged in order to keep competing the following day. “If I made it today, tomorrow I will also make it” she said. The medics, myself and the mechanics motivated her to think carefully wether to continue racing in this conditions. No way… It is impossible to stop Annie.
Annie woke up, jumped on her bike this morning at 6:45 am, holding her bike with the power of one arm only. She is now racing. “You cannot stop superwoman” said Laurent, after we both saw her departing from the Meca’System truck. Fingers crossed for her!!!