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.


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)

Blood, sweat and tears

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The last week was a real hell, a bloody fight for survival.
So deeply disappointed. Hard to be happy, it all feel like a total failure. It’s so cruel that the leading position in the first week turned into such a disaster, with a long struggle only to reach the finish at all.
Have been crying many many many times in the last days of Dakar. It was a hopeless feeling standing out there in the night with a dead bike, hoping for som little help like towing it to make it run a few more miles. Yet not sure to make it to finish.
The last morning the sentinel was malfunctioning and caused 30 minutes lost time on the connection, also the clutch broke and a stressful hurry to the start of the last special – then all tears came flowing while riding. The bike could break on the way in that speed – had to keep 120 km/h to make it to start time before the cars went off.
Then the bike really broke only 2-3 km from finish. Luckily a friend helped out by towing the bike the last bit. Then the bike was pushed over the finish line. – I fell it down and stood on it with both arms up – this was my victory! Getting a dead bike to the finish.

Den sista veckan var ett riktigt helvete, en blodig kamp om överlevnad.
Otroligt besviken. Svårt att vara glad, känns bara så misslyckat.
Så grymt att den första veckans överlägsna ledning kan bytas till en sån katastrof, och det blir kamp om att kunna komma i mål överhuvudtaget.
Har gråtit flera flera flera gånger under de sista dagarna i Dakar. Det har känts så hopplöst att stå därute i natten med en död mc, och hoppas kunna få lite hjälp att bogsera igång så jag kan köra några mil till. Men inte vara säker på att komma i mål.
Sista morgonen när sentinel krånglade o jag tappade 30 min på morgontransporten, kopplingen lade av och jag stressade för att hinna till min start på sista specialen – då strömmade tårarna medan jag körde. Visste att hojen förmodligen skulle rasa på vägen för jag var tvungen att ligga i 120 km för att hinna (måste ta min start innan första bil sticker).
Och så stannade hojen bara 2-3 km före mål, men som tur var fick jag bogserhjälp den sista biten och kunde knuffa hojen över mållinjen.  Sen välte jag omkull den på marken och ställde mig på den med armarna i luften – det var min seger! Att ha fått en död mc i mål.

S11. Major mechanical problems!!!

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A Genuine Dakar rally “the Annie style”. Date 13th…
– The competition is over, but the adventure begins. What a drama! At 170 km after wp 5 the engine just stopped. The gasket box had got loose and all oil had run out. And the water had evaporated from the hot engine. “So, that’s it, end of rally.” She lay down in the shadow, when Merkit Kemal stopped and told her to make a try. He took her to some spectators who had cross bikes. They had oil and followed her back to her bike. Annie put the gasket back and secured it with wire ties. When the engine had cooled it could rotate, but did not start, not by kicking and not by towing. Annie figured that because the engine had run hot without oil and water, maybe the valves got stuck, so she adjusted them. And it started! The endgine does not work very good and the clutch is broken again, but she was on her way. She made some more fixing on the gasket and filled up oil and water at a gas station. Then went on to the the last section of this stage, about 150 km.
The engine has run quite good, Annie rode at only 50-90 km/h to keep the temperature down. Stopped at the last cp 20 km from finish because of overheated engine, filled up oil and waited for cooling. She reached finish as the last biker past midnight, over 15 hours on the way. Stage pos 91 (?).

The stage was shortened by 90 km to 530 km (622 km) because of heavy rain that had destroyed the tracks.

Cool mountains

Äkta Dakar “Annie style”! Datum den 13e…
– Nu var tävlingen över och äventyret börjar istället. Stor drama idag! Vid km 170 efter wp 5 skar motorn ihop och det blev tvärstopp i maskineriet. Packboxen vid växelföraren hade tryckts ut och all olja runnit ur motorn. Vattnet dessutom dunstat i en rykande varm motor.
“Nu är det slut på årets Dakar”, tänkte Annie och hon la sig i skuggan. Då stannade Merkit Kemal hos henne och sa att göra ett försök. Han skjutsade Annie till några åskådare som hade crosshojar. Hon fick skjuts av dem tillbaka till hojen och tog olja med sig. Annie tryckte tillbaka packbox och säkrade med många buntband. När motorn kylts av gick den runt igen och startförsök gjordes, men motorn vägrade starta trots kickande och bogsering. Eftersom motorn gått varm utan både olja och vatten, tänkte Annie att ventilerna kanske fastnat, så hon justerade dem med stort ventilspel för säkerhets skull. Och motorn hoppade igång! Den går inget vidare och kopplingen har slutat fungera igen, men hon kunde fortsätta! På en bensinstation på transporten lägger hon brickor emellan växelpedal och packbox istället för buntbanden. Toppar upp med olja och vatten och kör till sista etappen för dagen, 150 km från wp8 till mål. Hojen har gått bra, men inte kört mer än 50-90 för att hålla ner värmen. Blev ändå överhettad och måste stanna 20 km från mål och låta kallna. Först efter midnatt äntligen framme som sista motorcykel, totalt över 15 timmar på väg! Etapp placering 91 (?).

Etappen var kortad med 90 km till 530 km pga häftigt regn som förstört spåren.

S10. Uphill… and down

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Started very well, improving the position during the first half of the stage.

Via sms: – In the downhill sections last dunes the electric system died, I checked all fuses and cables etc, but they were okay. No electricity to the starter and had no strength to kick start. But at last I got some help to kick start, and could ride again. It rolled on fairly well until the GPS battery run out, just when I came to the last riverbed. I followed a track, but many riders had taken this wrong way… There was a muddy hole…. and the bike sank right into it, so did my boots up to my knees. I gatherd branches to put under the bike, but it took a long time and all my powers to get the bike up. I thought this was the end, I was all alone. Totally exhausted, no water and hot like hell.
At finish the electricity worked again! Probably it was a bad contact because of sand and mud or corrosion. The mechanics will look it through and put in extra cables and a new battery.

Quite disappointed. I lost at least 1½ hour, but I made it to finish… as 70th. Overall pos 50.
But there are a couple of days left with long stages…

A moment on top – and then…

Etappen startade mycket bra, förbättrade tiden under första halvan av sträckan.

Via sms: – Nedanför bergets sista sanddyn lade elen av. Började leta efter trasiga säkringar och lösa sladdar, men alla var hela. Ingen elstart och jag orkade inte kicka. Fick hjälp att kicka igång till slut.
Sedan rullade det på tills batteriet i GPS tog slut precis när jag kom till sista flodbädden. Följde ett spår men tyvärr många som åkt fel där, och jag sänkte hojen i ett gegghål så stövlarna sjönk. Tog lång tid komma loss, trodde det var kört, helt ensam. Slut på ork, inget vatten och stekhett.
Vid mål funkade elen igen! Måste vara dålig kontakt pga sand och lera eller korrosion. Mekarna kollar upp allt och sätter in extra kablar och nytt batteri.

Ganska besviken. Förlorade minst 1½ timme, men jag kom i mål… som 70. Total pos 50.
Men det är ett par dagar kvar med långa sträckor…

S5. Mishaps and pain…

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No fun today!
– I slipped and got a highside, nothing major but I stretched a muscle in my back. After this there was a long way of heavy struggeling through fesh-fesh, stones, ravines, riverbeds and tons of dust! I had this terrible pain in my stiff back, could not sit, not control the bike. Fell down several times and could not lift the bike. Was passed by many riders and lost some 10-15 minutes. At refuel I saw Sanz – after that i rode like hell, did not care about the pain. I gained time on the sandy tracks. At the bivouac i got massage on my back.
But i’m satisfied with the result, 53 on the stage. And I keep a good position 45 in total!

Ingen kul dag!
– Jag sladdade och fick highside, inget stort men sträckte en muskel i ryggen. Sen kom värsta bök i flera mil, raviner, flodbäddar och massor av damm. Kunde inte manövrera hojen pga ryggsmärta, inte kunnat sitta, stel i ryggen… Tappade hojen flera gånger och kunde inte lyfta den, blev omkörd av massor, tappade 10-15 min. Såg Sanz vid tankning så efter det körde jag på som fan, brydde mig inte om smärtan. Tog igen tid på sandsträckor. Fått ryggmassage i bivacken.
Men är ändå nöjd med resultatet, 53 på etappen. Har behållit bra placering, 45 totalt!

Laia Sanz on pos 51 (on stage 64). Miriam Pol 98 (on stage 74). Ronnie Bodinger 99 (on stage 71).
Thomas Berglund had an accident and is out of the race.
Jennifer Morgan (GBR) had also a bad accident and has broken some bones and the race too.

The Tomb – how it did not show

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This is where the tomb is, just behind the flags we put up as warning. Difficult to see still? Imagine in a dust cloud…

My tracks goes straight ahead, cutting just inside the track of the others. I was riding maybe 50-60 kmh after going around the ruins. I kept a cuple of meters left to avoid some dust fro a rider n front.

Then the ground opened beneath me after the slight rise. I just managed to put my brakes on a jump off the bike. I landed on the left side while bike bounced on the edge and fell down…

From the other side it is much easier to see the tomb, behind the slight bank.

When Race director Etienne Lavigne arrived in the helicopter, he could not believe there was this great big hole in the ground that close to the track – without them seeing it when doing the course.

I must say I was surprised too when I came across it!!

I’ve marked the tomb in red, where I landed in blue, the correct track in green, my line to avoid dust in orange. also marked where most other riders and cars kept left of the ruins, and therefore didn’t even see the tomb.

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 8. Drama in the tomb.

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Antofagasta-Copiapo, special 472km
Stage position 86, 09:45:43 (+04:16:18). Total 50.

Link video Bike in tomb: youtube.com/watch?v=0QXm0s-WF68

Saved from above.

“At km 131 the track split around some ruins, and joined again after. To avoid dust I cut from right track over to the left, across a small rise. Behind the rise a 5m deep tomb opened, 2×3 wide. I rode too slow to jump and too fast to stop. Put the breakes on, slided bike to the left and abandoned ship. Instinctively I managed to jump to the left edge while bike tumbled down with the engine still running. I am lucky not to go down there cause the walls were impossible to climb.”

Bike & helmet on tomb bottomAfter getting back on her feet, a little shaken, Annie realized the bad situation. She could neither go down to lift the bike up nor get to the emergency alarm. It wasn’t possible even with help from the others – no way! She stopped some riders so they could call the HQ for help.

“A helicopter came and I climbed down with a thin rope to check the bike, it was okay. We tried to pull the bike, but no way. They said I must wait for the organisation truck to come and help. It took a while but then Mr Etienne Lavigne, race director, arrived in a helicopter instead! Like a true hero he climbed down with a rope, tied my bike with the real tie roses, and instructed the pilot how to lift it. Now I could continue the race, saved by the angel from above. Getting help from Etienne himself made me feel much better in that awful situation. Only suffering from painful swollen hand and aching foot.”

Annie's bike in a tomb

FAQ: Why and how did this happen?
(f**k): There was no mark of this hole in the roadbook! That’s Dakar…

Roadbook of the track where the tomb was
(Explanation of signs comes later)

Annie's jumping bikeImage right:
Is the Super Rocket jumping or flying!? Just happy when the track is good …

Photo right by Maindru

Tonight the bike needs some makeover, it was rather scratched and battered.

“And so do I….”

Medical treatment by my favorite doctor. Been here since stage 3 with twisted thumb. Today I injured my hand even more when jumping off the bike, left ankle also hurts.

Medical treatment

Antofagasta. Rest day, no race…

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… but everybody is busy with service and mechanic work at the vehicles. It’s been very tough for men and machines, so all need maintenance to cope with the coming challenges. We have still another week ahead.
So there’s not much time for rest anyway.

It felt really, really good to wake up in Antofagasta this morning, though yesterday had been so crazy… Well, I got over it, I am still in the race. And tomorrow is a new race day.
I had a hotel breakfast, and took all the juicy stuff. Did my laundry properly as well, all the racing clothing that already looks like they’ve been around for months, after only these few days.

Bivouac in Antofagasta, bird viewI went down to the bivouac and started fixing on the bike, it really needed to be attended to. Made a decision to replace the engine with the spare one I have. I thought this over very thoroughly, concidering what happened yesterday, with the back wheel bouncing around, what serious damage could have been caused.
It’s like airplane crashes, they don’t come out of the blue (well, the flights do). There’s always a series of incidents eventually causing that last part to fail. So, if I did not change the engine and had to withdraw the rally due to engine failure, I know for sure it would be hard to get over.

In the bivouac I talked to David Casteu, who crashed in the race and hurt his groin. And I also saw Cyril Despres riding his excercise bike in his tent. He seems determined to win. We’ll see.
Then I heard I had got 2 hours penalty yesterday! So I spent some time at the headquarters to sort it out. It appeared that other riders had the same issue, penalty for missing some waypoint. But this was caused by an incorrect mark in the roadbook, and everybody got the penalties removed. Though in my case it required quite a meeting with the racing jury today to correct the error. But all’s well that ends well.

Now it’s time to prepare the roadbook for tomorrow, so I took a peep: first thing on the track is fesh-fesh… uuuh
And because of that stupid penalty trouble I will stand far back in line to start tomorrow as 76, getting all dust in my face. Too bad – but hey, it’s my race number anyway.

Very late dinner at bivouac

See you on the next stage!

Stage 7. Broken rear wheel

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Stage 7. Iquique-Antofagasta, Special 600 km
Stage pos 63 09:44:25 (+03:10:11). Total pos 44.

Broken wheel bearingThe first half of the stage went very steady, Annie keeping her position around 30-35.

But entering the rocky areas it got tough. Not for Annie but the bike! The ballbearing broke after one third in to the course. That severly slowened the speed. And it also could have been fatal!!!

“I was riding within top 30 and felt really good. Then at km 200 something I noticed that the rear wheel started to shake. It was the ceasing ballbearing and I had 400km ahead to ride to the finish, very slowly. Also ran out of fuel 50km from second refuel, because the bike wouldn’t roll with broken wheel, so the fuel consumption doubled. I waited a long time for help – thanks all guys who gave me fuel! I’m glad that not the whole wheel hub and axle didn’t break. That would been the end of this race. This hurts, but I can cope and go on…”

At the maintenance of the bike yesterday Annie’s friends in the Aussie team (Mange & co) noticed that the bearing was a little loose. They told her mechanics to fix it! Did they miss it?

Over high dunes
Photo by Maindru

Steep incline in the mountains
Photo by Maindru

This was the longest rally stage with various terrain – sand, salt blocks and rocky mountains. Very fast sections but also very very slow (I sure know!!!) …
On this stage the the maximum time limit was extended – it was even allowed to stay overnight on the track and arrive the next day.

But I made the stage in time, and could rest at the hotel. Starting to relax with a long nice bath – so relaxing that I actually fell a sleep in the tub!