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.
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.
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..
– These have been really lousy days, have not been this sick in ages, says a tired Annie.
– I don’t know what was worst on stage 7, the broken clutch, the fever or the stomach illness. I had convulsions all the way – a day in hell.
– Today the riding was okay, but I did not feel quite strong to do my best. I have not been able to eat anything since saturday, only having that a medical dropper and special nutrition drinks.
The race goes on tomorrow, and anything can still happen.
Annie has gained some lost time, but the gap to Laia is more than an hour, so there is much to catch up.
Stage result pos 36 as best lady, but 2nd on pos 51 overall.
– Det har varit riktigt risiga dagar, har inte mått så dåligt på länge, säger en trött Annie Seel.
– Vet inte vad som var värst på etapp 7, kopplingen, febern eller magen, det var kamp varje meter, från början till slut, en dag i helvetet.
– Idag har det gått bra, men jag hade inte riktigt orken i kroppen för att orka hela vägen. Har ju inte kunnat äta något sen i lördags, får bara dropp varje dag och särskilda näringsdrycker.
Vi kör vidare imorgon igen, fortfarande kan allt hända.
Annie vann tillbaka en del av den förlorade tiden, men skillnaden till Laia är över en timme, så det är mycket att ta igen.
Etappresultat: plats 36 som bästa dam, men 2a totalt på plats 51.
Annie got up already at 3.30 in the morning, this means she had not many hours to sleep. The fever had gone down, but she was still quite weak and somewhat dizzy. She got on the bike and headed to the start of today’s stage, a long one – connection 270 km and the special 508 km. Again very tough tracks, but Annie made it to the 54th position. That is remarkable considering she is not fully recovered. She was of course very tired. Also she must go visit the dictor again.
Photo: water refill
Annie vaknade upp tidigt i morse 3.30, så det blev inte mycket till sömn. Febern hade gått ner men hon var rätt svag och lite dåsig. Hon ga sig iväg mot starten i dagens långa etapp – transport 270 km och 508 km special. Åter svåra sträckor, men Annie klarade 54e plats. Det är anmärkningsvärt då hon ännu inte återhämtat sig. Hon var förstås väldigt trött, och måste besöka läkaren igen för kontroll.
Stage 7 became a night mare. Annie used her last powers to ride to the bivouaq. She had high fever and her stomache felt really bad. She has now a medical dropper and gets antibiotics for the food poisoning. The doctors will decide in the morning if she can go on with the race.
Many other participants also got food poisoned, all from the dakar catering. How is this kind of safety?
Another problem this day was that the clutch broke already in the beginnig of the stage. Riding in the difficult terrain without a clutch made the strain even worse. No wonder she lost much time. She finished the stage as number 90, last lady this time. Tina Meier followed Annie on the connection to the bivouac where she went to the doctor.
One good thing was that this stage’s specials were shortened by a half. There were two of them planned, in total some 600 km, but only one part of 273 km was run. This because many contestants had arrived very late from the 6th stage before rest day that they there was not much time for rest at all.
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.
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.
I’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…
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!
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!!!
In the evening at 9 Annie made it to the finish as no 115 (last one?), time 13:38:43. And in addition 4 hrs penalty for exeeding the time limit. It sucks…
The bike has run badly all day – very slow, consuming too much fuel etc. She got gas from people in the villages. Also Henrik Rahm, a fellow competitor, helped out.
The malfunctioning bike also caused crashes. She is badly hurt in the shoulder. A rescue helicopter came and bandaged the shoulder, it ached terribly. Henrik wanted her to quit the race. No way!!!
A Lady in distress…
She was only 5 km from finish, at a river ridge and couldn’t get over. (Fiambala area) She needed help to find a passage.
She tried to call/sms her rally-friend Henrik. But there was no connection. So Annie called home to Swden from her mobile phone in the evening. Sister Eila started a contact network. But in the meantime she found a way to get over the river-bed and made it to the finish.
After that there were still 260 km liaison.
Henrik finished at 7 pm (local time).
A lot of trucks and cars were stuck too at the river. Many participants have criticized the route – sensless planning, terrain not suitable for rally vehicles etc. And too dangerous.
It was a long day’s thrill also for all supporters. Many of them tried to get assistance for Annie. Thanks!
Posted by Sis Eila
I met the doctor for VW-team and he told my nose is broken. Pretty? And yet the helmet took the hardest hits…
(See also the picture below on “Two days after the crash”)
Well, that’s Dakar… pain and pleasure, hate and love – I take it all. And so I told the reporter too who interviewed me. It was shown on Eurosport.
Posted by Sis Eila