Ned update from Stage 9
January 10th, Dakar Stage 9
I'm just about to go eat dinner but I wanted to give a call in with an update before I head to dinner. Today's theme was Highs and Lows. At the beginning of the day the navigation was very tricky and I nailed it and I'm told by Nate over at ADVrider that I was in as high as 35th position during the day when the navigation went extremely well for me. After that there was another really high speed section where I haven't been pushing it too much, as you probably know. I slipped back a bit in the standings there but was still feeling really good and holding my own. Then I came to the river crossing.
This river crossing consisted of continuous moving water all the way across with two deep parts that were a pretty big challenge. There was a quad in front of me so I made it through the first deep part and waited in the shallow middle for him to go through the second deep part. I was off the bike standing up and waiting until it looked like he made it through the second deep part as it went around a little bend. I committed myself to the second hole which was really fast running and just as I got to the deepest part the quad stalled and rolled backwards. I had nowhere to go and stopped. The current grabbed my bike and it completely disappeared. There was nothing, not even a handlebar above water.
The bike ended up drifting off downstream where some locals helped me get it up the bank and, eventually, I got it drained and restarted. The road book was completely soaked (which, I'd like to point out is the highest point on the motorcycle) so once I got out onto a pavement section I had to take it apart and ride with it open for a while so I could tape it back together and navigate again.
The second part of the day went really smooth. I had a good time and the end of the stage is an incredible experience. The route goes down a 3 km sand hill and it was totally phenomenal.
I think the reason I did so well in the navigation early in the day was simply because I've done quite a bit of it. That and the areas I ride in Nevada and other places where our navigation routes are laid out are maybe even more difficult. I also feel comfortable because I'm riding at a pace where I can stay behind the road book and navigate ahead of where I am on the course. Some people actually ride beyond the road book while they check in with it from time-to-time. Obviously the front runners are extremely skilled at navigating but there are a bunch of guys in the middle of the pack that are just chasing dust. I've been trying not to do that. So, I think that's one reason I had a great
As far as terrain goes, today was a lot more fun than yesterday, for sure. We had some very fun gravel sections and some really neat canyons. It was still really high speed which is not my favorite. I'd much prefer slower, more technical situations but it was much more fun today than it was yesterday. I was talking to Chris Birch (New Zealand Extreme Enduro Racer who is competing in Dakar this year) and he confirmed my opinion that yesterday was the worst. Today had much more enjoyable, twisty terrain where you have to actually ride the bike, not just sit there and hold on and pray.
Even after the dunking the bike is good. I've done very little to it and have tried to keep it off the ground. It's rewarded me with really good performance. I carry a spare air filter with me so after going for a swim I took the old one out, put the bike upside-down and drained all the water out. Then I slapped in a new air filter. I had to take the carb apart twice but I eventually got it to fire up and run and it's all good, now.
Check back tomorrow for a report on stage 10!