Finish

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)

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Arrival, supporters… but a vanished dream

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ENGLISH

On the podium. Standing on the dead bike! The bike broke totally only a few kilometers from finish… it had to be towed to the finish arena and pushed up on the podium.




Race Director Etienne Lavigne:
“Merde! Une moto morte! Holy shit! A dead bike!!!”


“… uuuhm, hmmm… whisper, whisper… “

VIDEOS:
Short interview after finish (new window)
Annie on the podium – with dead bike (new window)

Iréne Crona from the swedish embassy meeting up with flowers!
The arrival was more spectacular than glorious … but isn’t that a halo shining around a saint’s head 😉

Lots of supportive fans surrounding – greeting, comforting, asking for autographs, giving small presents.

But no prize – the dream of winning the Ladies class turned into dust, literally, and sank deep in the mud.

A fan, Oviedo, gave me a nice “prize”: the Argentinian flag and a photo from the rally start. 😀

SVENSKA
På podiet. Stående på en död motorcykel. Hojen brakade ihop totalt bara några kilometer från mål … och måste bogseras till avslutningen på arenan, och knuffas upp på podiet. I videon syns lite.

Iréne Crona från svenska ambassaden mötte upp med blommor!
Ankomsten var mer spektakulär än lysande … men är det inte en helgongloria som lyser kring huvudet?

Mängder av stöttande fans samlades runt om – hälsade, tröstade, bad om autografer, gav små presenter.
Men  det blev inget pris – drömmen att vinna Damklassen förvandlades till stoft, bokstavligen, och sjönk djupt i lera.
En beundrare, Oviedo, gav mig ett fint “pris”: argentinska flaggan och ett foto från rallyts sart.

S13. FINISHED !!!!!

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Lost weight and did not sleep enough, broke the bike…?
But mission impossible accomplished!

056 SEEL (SWE) KTM
Stage pos 77, 001:59:16, 00:34:09
Total pos 82 (?), 91:20:03s, +39:55:03, pen+08:01:00 (maximum time limit)

ENGLISH
Thanks to all people praying to their gods! The bike made it all the way (… almost).
Not a medalist this time, but still a winner – over all obstacles: food poison, broken engines, clutch, gps, irritrack etc.
And still having the “record of finishing 100% of races where participated”.

Details later… just wait for the final stuff 😉

SVENSKA
Tack vare alla människor som bett till sina gudar! Hojen höll hela vägen (… nästan).
Ingen medaljist denna gång, men ändå en vinnare – över alla hinder: matförgifting, trasiga motorer, koppling, gps, irritrack etc.
Och ännu innehavare av “rekord i att slutfört 100% av tävlingar som man deltagit i”.

Detaljer kommer senare… med slutklämmen

Dakar 2010 Podium film – and I’m there!

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The pint-size* rider Annie Seel appears at about 3.20 min into the film.

* Definition “pint-size”: little, very small, especially smaller than usual or than expected

Greeting to all moto/quad women in the Dakar

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Finally I am the winner of the “Feminine Trophy”. I’ve been trying so hard for many years, and always something happened. This year it was my lucky turn, despite a hole lot of drama. Not only did I win the Feminine Trophy, there was a prize check of 3.500 Euros! Will be needed to pay for some damages…

But I want to congratulate all women who finished, out of a total of 6 ladies (5 moto and 1 quad ladies), 5 reached the finish wich shows thes women are truly strong and determined. So big hand for Silvia Gianetti, Christina Meier, Tamsine Jones and quad Camelia Liparoti. You are all real heroes and role models for all women!
And I also want to greet a very strong, but this year unlucky, Mirjam Pol. I missed you after you had the crash, always good to race with you. Hope to see you next race!!

From Dakar.com web:
“Finally, congratulations to the little – but tough – Annie Seel who is the Best Woman in the Dakar and finishes 45th in the standings.”

Winners celebration

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Annie, winner of Ladies Cup on podium
Hooray! Winner of Womens Cup by many hours. What a title to have!
Photo by Maindru

This is my 4th dakar finish and 16th rally total, and still 100% finish rate! It’s been dramatic – as usual – I was close to be out. But now I feel I could go on another week. The whole time I felt calm, strong and confident in my riding and I kept my strategy, which paid off. I started with a good position and managed to keep it through the whole race, despite the injured thumb. Actually I got used to it and could ride really good with just keeping the right hand on the bar, even if gas/break and steer in curves was difficult.
My total standing: 45, 69:55:40 (+18:45:03)

Annie at finish Buenos Aires
Photo by Tomas Kocanda

Podium capToday it’s time for ceremony and prize-giving. Tonight it’s time for partying. Super happy! 😀

Right: Podium cap, only for winners!
I got one.

🙂

Below:
Signed tshirt… Yes its dirty. But it has made stage 13 in the dust.

T-shirt signed by dakar competitors

Arriving in Buenos Aires

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Annies winning arrival in Buenos Aires, frontDuring the 335km transport into Buenos Aires the road was packed with cheering and waving crouds. There are so many spectators, all Argentina seems to be watching this event.

“And I waved back to everyone. In Buenos Aires there were even more photos, autographs, hugs, kisses.
I’m quite famous here. Everyone has seen me on TV when my bike was in that tomb!”

Here arriving in a parade through the streets in Buenos Aires.

Annies winning arrival in Buenos Aires, side

Annie after finishing her 4th DakarIn the evening a nice dinner with all friends in the Aussie Team, for finishing Dakar with great success.

Right:
Annie after finish of her 4th Dakar rally, filling body with energy – also needing some facial shine-on…

;-)

Below:
Mange, Gazza, Kev, Garry, Richie, Annie, Alana & Rob (biker #122, pos 38)

Aussie team & Annie at dinner after Dakar

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

Home from Hell!

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What happened? Why can’t it just be a nice ride from start to finsih? Riding was not the problem, but as always things happend… and this has been the most dangerous Dakar I’ve ridden – not the track but the dust. You were never in a clear spot chasing up the field…
Starting first stage perfectly with a 41st place without too much pushing through the dust. But then…
On stage 5 my front mudguard broke, caught the front wheel pulling the brake cable and jammed it into full stop – and face plant over the handlebars!
I broke my nose and ripped off the chin piece of my helmet, lucky not to break my neck. Also badly bent handlebars, so riding the remaning 150 kms was tough in the dunes and lama grass, rain, hale and mud (no mudguard means all shit was in my face…)
And then on stage 12 my carburettor was not working, so I had major problems ridning the bike, specially up the steep and sandy mountainclimbs. Flipped the bike on the top of the biggest and injured my right shoulder (same as in Egypt) and then handling the bike one-armed was hell.
I fell a few more times on the shoulder and making it worse until I could not hold on to the bike. A car team stopped and called for the helicopter to rescue me. But I refused to push the “red button” of quitting, instead asked the doctor to tape up my shoulder so I could continue. No-one of the other bikers who stopped to watch me thought I could ride on. Ha! They dont know me!!! Did all the dunes, sandy river beds, rocks, bushes and fesh-fesh.
Of course also got out of fuel because of the malfunctioning carb. I had to stop locals and beg for fuel and find a village with a station…
It took until sunset before I cleared the stage.

So what can i say – happy to be alive and reach the finish! That’s Dakar!

On the Podium – finish Dakar 2009

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Finish Dakar 2009 podium
Annie on the podium Dakar 2009

Mission completed!