Bike & equipment

Day of resurrection. My KTM 250 is back. And so am I.

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According to some religion today was the day of resurrection. And guess what, it’s true. Today my KTM 250 came out from the darkest corner of the garage!
I haven’t ridden a bike since my shoulder-smashing-crash two years ago, so now I’ll just start easy and see how it goes.

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Dakar 2011 – a success turned into disaster. But still a victory to get to the finish

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I am celebrating my victory of getting the dead bike to the finish. Photo: Maindru

Well I can say I did it again. I finished the gruelling Dakar despite all kinds of unfortunate happenings.

The first week my strategy worked out pefectly. I had been running my own race, riding and navigating very well, but also pacing myself for the second week. The longer stages leading in for the rest day I started gaining time and positions. At rest day I could summarize a comfortable position as 38th general and leading the Womens class by 1.30 Hours. I felt ready for the second week, only my motorcycle had an engine change because the dust fesh-fesh is really eating everything inside.

But then my luck turned bad. Really bad. And the shit hit the fan.

In the evening of the rest day I started feeling sick, and during the night I had fever and bad diarrhea. At breakfast I could eat nothing, and had to make many stops during the morning liasion. At the start of the stage I feelt very unfocused with shivers, and my aim was just to get through the stage. To make things worse, my clutch malfunctioned half way into the stage, which made me suffer even worse in the most technical stage of the Dakar this year – a trial section climbing up and down some mountains with cracks and slippery sides, and really slow riding in narrow canyons. It had been a difficult stage for me even being fit with an intact bike – now I was totally out of strength, and when the bike stopped uphill and I had to turn around, and try start without cluth I almost gave up so many times… To handle the bike in this slow and gnarly terrain with no clutch and a dimmed focus of high fever – I cannot believe I even finished it! The doctor at the finish arranged for german rider Tina Meier to accompany me to the bivouack in case I got even worse. So thanks to everybody helping me.

At the bivouack I arrived almost unconscious with bad shivers and fever of 39,7 C, and was immediately taken care of in the medical tent. For many hours I had IV of antbiotics and other substances to take control of my condition, and the doctor told me this was the end of the race for me. But you know me – next morning I saddled up again, weak but determined to ride to the finish.

But in a sense this is where I left “walk over” in the race for victory, I knew I could not perform at my best and had lost a lot of time and momentum. Now my focus was just trying to make it to Buenos Aires just to keep my rate of 100% fulfilled rallies intact.

Still I tried to ride my best, actually mananging to pick up some speed and made some good stage results even if I stopped longer at refuels to see the doctors and fill up with energy drinks as could still not eat anything. The Copiapo dunes I really enjoyed, which rewarded me with a 36th position that day.

Next day through the Fiambala dunes I was still holding 35 position when my electrical system completely died. Nothing worked on the bike, and I stopped for a long timetrying to find a solution. Finally a fellow rider helped me start the bike and I could continue, but with no navigation instruments it was a challenge to find the good way to the end, and I mostly followed the tracks. This rendering I made the same navigation error as all the previous motorcycles had done – I followed a riverbed too far and then when turning back I unfortunately sunk my bike half way in the very wet and soggy mud. It took me some time and effort to pull the bike out of it, being alone and still quite weak.

Until now all the hardship had not quite broken my spirit, and still I was holding second place in the Womens class.

But on stage 11 disaster really hit me. Starting back in the field, carving through endless of the dangerous fesh-fesh, through rocky canyons and across a mountainpass of more than 3000 m, at km 179 my motorcycle died. As I had passed over the 3000 m mountains, I felt the engine loosing power more and more. Coming down to a very hot valley the engine was almost powerless, and I sensed a smell of oil. As I let off the throttle the motor died with a bang. I looked down and saw all the oil had pushed out from the oil seal by the gearshifter.

For a while I thought “End of bike, end of race”! But maybe someone could tow me… or if I found some oil..  #55 Kemal Merkit stopped and offered a slab of oil, and a lift to get help to push start the bike. I fixed the leaking oil seal, some locals provided with more oil, and finally after adjusting valves the engine was running again. I felt like MacGyver! But I had to ride slowly not to create any oil pressure, and I stopped many times to check oil and water level. And yes, I had no clutch today either.

I almost had the finish in sight, when the engine died again at the check point only 22 km from the finish – I started crying. The engine was steaming hot and leaking oil. I had to stop and let it cool down, pouring water on it. As the sun was setting the bike started but running very badly, and I prayed it would last the remaining 22 km. After 7 km I caught a slow truck, and as I tried to slow down before overtaking in the narrow track, the bike died on me. Again I broke into tears – why couldn’t it run for just the few kilometers – I felt so hopeless.
The bike was impossible to start again. The last biker that passed was so tired he could barely keep his own bike up. Now it was dark night and I was gazing at the stars – thinking I would have to push the bike to the end. Cars and trucks were still passing so my rescue was to get a jump start. Since the engine had now cooled down it started, and it ran very heavily and was noisy. I managed to ride almost all the way before it stopped and had to be pushed the last bit while my tears were running with anger, but I made it!! At 2 am I arrived in the bivouack, and my team hastily started changing the engine back to the one I used the first week. Meanwhile I tried to get my 2 hours of sleep before the next start.

Photo: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard - Downloaded from http://www.totallycoolpix.com

As soon as I took off on the penultimate and very hard stage starting with 70 km of very soft and energy draining sand, I felt I had to ride gentle on the engine because it was also not running well. This showed to be a very good decision as the stage got worse, through some really muddy streches and endless of heavy fesh-fesh filled tracks, putting a lot of strain on the engine. Also I managed to get deeply stuck in a mud rut, and the only person who could drag my bike out of it was #5 David Casteu who was running behind me due to mechanical problems. ( Thanks David, you are a hero!) The last part of the stage I was running slowly, and I could see the oil was starting to leak also from ths engine. Late night I arrived to the bivouac and now I had no more engines to use.

The final stage started really bad. My Sentinel system was malfunctioning, so I lost 30 minutes at the morning start when the officials tried to get it workning. Also my clutch ceased again and now my biggest fear was that the engine was going to cease already on the 500 km morning liasion as I had to ride at 120km/h to make my start before the cars. Worried I started to cry while riding, I could not believe how many ways this Dakar had gone wrong. And still there was a long day to reach the finish in Buenos Aires.

The last special stage was only 180 km on fast track. I took off riding at a moderate pace and the engine was running quite ok. I thought me and the bike would make it… until it stopped only 2 kms from the end. I could not believe this was happening! Luckily #180 Sulem stopped and towed me the last bit (including 2 falls) to the finishline, where I jumped off and pushed the bike across and then let it fall on its side and me standing on it like a dead horse. Then Sulem towed me all the way to Buenos Aires. (Thanks Sulem, this is Dakar friendship!)

What a victory – to get that dead bike across the finishline! Defying all the hardship served to me the second week. And to still have a 100% finishing record is also a victory!

I’m just so disappointed I could not race for the win in this Dakar. But this is why the Dakar is the Dakar. There are so many factors that can go wrong, and you need to get all of them right to win.

Also know there were so many other good riders who suffered from all kinds misfortune – some of them didn’t make it to the finish.

THANKS

Many thanks to everybody during Dakar that has helped out, fellow competitors (Pedro Bianchi Prata, David Casteu, Emmanuel Sulem, Kemal Merkit, Mathieu Serradori, Tina Meier, Christian Califano, Daniele Carmignani, Pederzoli, and more that i didn’t get name/numbers of)) officials, spectators. Truly this is what makes Dakar a special race – the friendship.

Thanks to my sponsors: Elmborgs Tandvård, KTM, Team Meca’System, Lindroths Maskin, DekkPartner, Michelin, KlarSynt, Lelles MC, IVVAB, Karnag, Exclusive Cars, Toppmontage, Kå-Hå’s bilplåt & lack, Bosse Carlsson, Segway, Jonotech Maskinservice, Real Wear MXW, Mattssons Smide, Safari tanks, ProService, Öhlns, MotoSpeed, Loctite, Art’n’Dito, HotSnacks, Shore AB, Coaltrane Products, Andres Åkare, Oljecenter i Vedum, MotoAventures, Endless Brakes, Prins Dirty Parts, EMX Racing, Arnalids Salong och Carrera Sunglasses.
And all my supporters, that bought Dakar-kilometers.
And my dear friends & family who are always supporting and helping..

Video clips:
Start show off – cheering fans
Interview after finish

On the podium with a dead bike
Summary 2011 with music. Fallings on S8 (at min 4.30) and S12 (at min 6.15)

S12. Jinxed machine???

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ENGLISH
It’s like the whole bike is cursed! The problems with the engine still remain. Leaking oil, overheating… Also the irritrack is out of order. Must stop after wp1.
This stage was very long and tough and muddy after the rain in some sections. I could ride only very slow to spare the engine. It took almost 12 hrs to get through the special.

Reached the finish a quarter past midnight on pos 92 (?).

SVENSKA
Det är som det låg en förbannelse över hela hojen! Maskinproblemen kvarstår. Oljeläckage, överhettning… även transpondern/irrritracken har krånglat. Blev stående efter wp1.
Etappen var mycket lång och jobbig och geggig efter regnet på en del avsnitt. Kunde sedan köra bara väldigt långsamt för att skona motorn. Det tog nästan 12 timmar att klara specialen.

I mål kvart över midnatt som 92a (?).

VIDEO: Stage 12 Summary. Muddy tracks indeed!

Rest Day (is it ???)

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ENGLISH
The past days have been tough. The first stages were rather easy, but 5 and 6 were really challenging. The sixth was the same as last year where I almost fell in that deep tomb. This year the competitors got warned about it in our briefing.
My riding strategy has been successful. I started easy, but after I got a good rythm I could ride faster at the end of the stage. Many other contentants lost strength by then making mistakes too, but I still got energy and kept my focus – overtaking several riders, thus improving my standings.

Now I feel just great! I got muscle relaxants and painkillers yesterday and today to avoid seizures.

 
Photo: Annie and a mechanic

Restday means sleep-in, on the race days we started very early in the mornings. But there is quite a lot of work. All service on the bike – fix the fork, new chain and sprocket, tires, oil and filters. I will have a new engine as that fesh-fesh gets everywhere inside, which might cause a major engine failure. That i sure don’t want to happen during the remaining race days!
And a lot of planning and organaizing for the second week of dakar rally. Also i must find a laundry place in the city…
*
Interview Annie during the rest day: contact Marie Hessel phone +46 763 18 88 22. Chile time -4h compared with Europe.

 
Photo: Annie and fellow bikers making marks in the roadbooks.
*
SVENSKA
Det har varit tufft de senaste dagarna. De första etapperna var ganska lätta, men sträckorna 5 och 6 blev det allvar! Sexan var samma som förra året, där jag var nära att köra ner i det djupa schaktet. I år blev förarna varnade för det i den gemensamma genomgången!
Min körstrategi har visat sig lyckosam. Jag tog det lugnt i början av etapperna men när jag hittat rätt rytm kunde jag gasa på i slutet av sträckorna. Många andra förare började tappa orken då och gjorde misstag, men jag hade styrkan kvar och körde om flera, vilket gav allt bättre placeringar.

Nu känns det bara toppen! Jag fick muskelavslappnande och smärtstillande medel igår och idag för att undvika kramper.

Vilodag betyder sovmorgon, under tävlingsdagarna har vi ju gått upp mycket tidigt. Men det finns också mycket jobb. All service på hojen – fixa gaffeln, ny kedja och drev, däck, olja och filter. Ska byta motor, eftersom fesh-feshen täpper till varje vrå och det innebär risk för haveri. Det vill jag ju slippa under resten av rallyt!
Därtill planera och ordna för den andra veckan av dakarrallyt. Och så måste jag hitta ett tvätteri på stan…

Roadbook checking

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Many modifications in roadbook stage 3… lot of work checking it all through and making notifications.

Annie’s Dakar iPhone app

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ENGLISH:
Now you can get my own app for your iPhone! Follow my progress in the Dakar rally, reports, photos, results etc. Download at iTunes, 1.99 USD.

SVENSKA:
Nu ksan man skaffa min egen app för iPhone. Följ mig i Dakarrallyt, rapporter, bilder, resultat. Ladda ner från iTunes, ca 15 SEK.

Stage 14 – Finally at finish. Yes!!!

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Santa Rosa-Buenos Aires, Special 206 km
Flat sand, dusty, very fast.
Position stage 37, 01:47:56 (+0:21:08). Total 45. Winner of the Ladies class.

She did it!
Annie held the good and even speed through the whole stage, without taking any risks. Trying to gain a few minutes wouldn’t affect the total standig anyway. Today there’s nothing to win only everything to loose.

Annie at finish of S14

She made a short phone call home to friends just after finish:
“I am very happy with this result, considering all mishaps during the rally. Maybe it was not the perfect race I hoped for – but is that even possible, Dakar is unpredictable! I aimed at top 40, and I was very close to get there. It was that damned visit in the tomb and my thumb! My other aim was winning the ladies class – and this I acchieved by a wide margin. It feels so fantastic I can’t even describe it.”

Ullevålseter & wifeAnnie has already at the finish line told the big congrats to Pål-Anders for his wonderful second position.
And all the riders will celebrate together at the arrival in Buenos Aires.
Photo right: A happy Ullevålseter with his wife

Depres signs Annies t-shirtA famous female
Late at night Annie sent a textmessage with some more details:
Annie and Oldrich“I set off in good speed on dead straight pist, with lots of dust. Stayed behind the rider in front… no taking risks. Soon faster bikes caught up, and I let them pass, since I was already at max speed. Just waited to cross the finish line… making no mistakes.

And when I arrived at finish I was so happy that I finally made it: best woman and a good total, despite the dramas.
I’ve worked so hard for this, for many years. A big kiss and hug party with my team and rider friends, many interviews, photos. Got my t-shirt signed by all riders, also winner Despres – so fun!”
Images above right:
Annie with bike winner Despres and quad-rider Oldrich

Annie gets a thorough scrubRight:
Annie gets a thorough scrub after the race.

Below:
Super Rocket gets a shine-on and a touch up on stickers.

Super Rocket gets a shine-on

Stage 9. Fun but slow

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Copiapo-La Serena. Special 170 km.
The special is shortened (originally 338 km) as the start was delayed alomost 4 hrs due to fog in the area. The bikers start was in groups of 20.
Stage pos 60, 03:26:11 (+01:13:41). Total 51.

Back from the almost dead – the tomb. This morning I was stiff in my hand and wrist after yesterday’s rocket jump off the bike. But after that Tomb Riding I was really happy to be able to start one more rally stage. I was so such incredibly lucky that there was no severe damage. Right at the time I was quite chocked and didn’t think about it much, my only focus was on getting back on the track.

MC group start

MC group goAll together now:

Ready …. Steady ….

…. Goooo ….

The stage set off with a motocross start, the bikers lined up in groups of 20. I hole shot my group and set off into the dunes.

Riding was hard because I couldn’t use my right hand, difficult to hold the bike or gas/brake. Every time braking i dropped the bike. But I caught several riders anyway. At 66km it was very rocky with wash outs in front of a mountain, and painful for the hand. I took it easy but still crashed in a dip when couldn’t hold bike. My face hit the gps and broke it’s antenna cable. I rode the rest of the day without gps, waypoints or compass. I tried to follow some tracks but there were too many, and not only race tracks. So I had to wait for some other rider I could follow.

Still the track was fun, and considering all this I i did quite well today. In the evening I paid my doctor a visit again – I’m a regular. My knuckles are swollen, really huge.

I am sorry to hear of Mirjam Pol’s accident and that she must abandon this rally. She was a good friend and a skilled biker, I enjoyed competing with her.

Stage 6. Got in the flow again

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Antofagasta – Iquique , Special 418 km
Stage pos 31, 06:02:56 (+01:15:57). Total standing 40.

We had a fear of engine problems when the bike didn’t start. My mechanic checked all details: adjusted valves, new sparkplug, cleaned carb and made it leaner, cleaned fueltanks. All was okay, no need to change the engine. The problem is the airfilter. I run two, but now we put a wettex cloth between the two filters and I had a spare set in my riding jacket, in case. Hoped we thought of everything now.
I decided to take no risks today.

Started like a Super Rocket. I was flying! And today i could use thumb a little. Nice fast and sooth track, but with dangerous washouts and cracks. I had one focus – stay out of dust – the engine barely made it yesterday. Strategy in off pist: I cut across everywhere I could only using compass and dust clouds. But my navigation and tactic worked and I passed many riders. At cp1 I was 15th general. I heard many got lost just before, but my navigation was accurate. Until 2/3 of the stage my position was between 15-19! Before cp2-refuel the engine started suffering, and at the refuel I changed the filter. Then the bike was happy again.

Stage 6 crossing a river
Photo by Maindru

Approaching finish I paced down a bit to save energy for the next stage 7 (tomorrow) 600 km, letting some bikers had a chance to overtake – but the time differencies were very small. All afternoon I could ride alone in no dust. enjoyed fantastic scenery, arid plateaus, mountains, dunes… like fom another planet. At the finish we had a 3 km descent from the mountain down to the sea. Breathtaking view! Biggest downhill I ever rode.

Annie gives interviews in the shadow under a truck
Cool place for giving interviews: in the shadow under a truck.

I feel just great! My thumb is still swollen but not hurting too much, and I could get good grip of the handlebar. So riding was all right, as there was no more terrible pain disturbing. But every night the thumb gets electro treatment and new supportive bandage.
Quite a race!

Luca Manca to hospital Jan 7At finish I was very sad to hear that my friend Luca Manca, with whom I had breakfast this morning, had a bad crash only after 10 km. He got severe head injuries.

Stage 3. Some turning luck

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Annie crossing river
Image by Maindru Photo

La Rioja – Fiambala. Stage pos 53 (5:12:53 /+2.11:44), total 47.

Now the real Dakar started. A short but very tough sand and dune special. There was no time for rest, and impossible to ride slow. I was going steady, but dropped the bike a couple of times in the soft sand. Made up time on navigation; riders #19 Faria and #11 Przygonski were surprised to pass me.

All white sand dunes
Image by Maindru Photo

Image: All white,  like in Sweden in winter!

Then luck turned halfway – riding down a ledge into a riverbed, I came off and twisted my thumb. Continued without using the thumb, so riders behind could overtake. But I made up on good navigation again. 1 km before CP3 I ran out of fuel. Now I had to push the bike with help of locals. It took some time to find fuel, so I lost a lot of time. Not very funny…but I’m quite content with todays result. Many competitors had even more trouble, so there are several changes in the positions.

Riding in the dunes is very tough and the heat makes one loose focus – it’s so easy to make small mistakes that will cost big loss of time.

Annie's taking photo with injured thumb in bandageI’ve been to the medics who checked my thumb. There was some bleeding and the x-ray showed a stretched ligament, but luckily no broken bones.
(Image by unknown)
Now I’m going to eat properly and gather my strength for tomorrow…

Loctite offering helpGot some mending stuff from Loctite too… for the bike, not the thumb.

Image by www.stefanolevi.com