Penultimate stage: Kiffa-Kayes – Tambacounda.
I'm tired and like everyone else, I am consumed by the fatigue and stress of this race. I strongly wanted it, I felt I had to give myself this adventure. I lived it as a way to close a circle opened many years before, in 1976.
A circle linked to a wonderful sport made of nature, engines, friends. A sport that was a world. In this African adventure I was in the company of a dear friend, friend since this sport was called regularity.
His presence gave me strength and serenity. On the eve of the penultimate stage I was happy, after weeks of km, sand and difficulty only one stage is missing. I had almost managed to complete the toughest race in the world. Obviously, like all outsiders, I was sailing in the back of the standings but the Dakar at that time was not only ranking, for some it was certainly important to get to the front but for many it was very important and challenging to get to the pink lake, at the finish line.
Up to that point I had managed to complete all the days of the race without incurring penalties due to excessive delay at the finish line of the stage. This is also thanks to the help of Aldo, great expert dakariano.
In life, as in races, never take anything for granted, all the more so at the Dakar. The stage included 572 total km, 283 km of special stage. At the end of the special stage, the transfer included a route on a very dusty laterite road. We decide to travel separately to Tambacounda to avoid filling up with dust. Each of us leaves alone and we meet on arrival. I remember that I am traveling quietly when 180km from the destination the mono shock absorber breaks. In the midst of such a selective race there can be many types of breakages. Unfortunately my mono broke in such a way that I could not bypass it by connecting the linkages directly to the swingarm.
It would have allowed me to have a bike with a normal set-up, even without the shock absorbing function. Instead, is made: the bike is completely lying down, so I decide to continue my journey in this way hoping that the rear tire will hold up. But in the desert every problem recalls others, the wheel touches the fender and wears out. While traveling I often turned to look back but saw only dust and black pieces of tire. Even today I don't know why, there were not many holds but the same I hoped for a miracle, that of course, it didn't happen.
At some point, as normal happens, I remain without a tire.
Unique feeling difficult to misunderstand. I stop, I get off the bike. I observe what remains, two large metal rings that formed the shoulder of the tire. I have to remove them but among my tools I do not have the right one. At least I was not in the desert dunes but along a road, the Dakar caravan was about to pass by here. I start thinking, to try to find solutions. I'm too close to the end not to try everything. I think I can wait for my assistance, for sure they have a wheel and a shock absorber on the truck that would solve the situation. This means waiting who knows how long. Until that moment I had managed to avoid it, so I decided to make do on my own. I borrowed a tool to shear the two metal rings from a crew in the car who had kindly stopped to help me. Eventually, Somehow, I'm back.
I did the last 60 kilometers on the rim and without shock absorber, trying to drive as much as possible standing with the weight forward, jumping and bouncing at every little hole, trying to sit only when I couldn't take it anymore. The bike was difficult to direct going slowly because it was the side of the rim that controlled the direction and so I had to try to keep a sustained pace. I don't remember the times I fell. At some point I also lost the saddle. I went ahead, supported by I don't know what willpower. When I arrived just fifteen kilometers from the time control, it was dark by now but I felt I had made it.
I arrived, like a comet, to the time control. A comet formed by the sparks caused by the crawling of the muffler on the asphalt, as the astonished eyewitnesses told me: an unexpected fireworks show in Tambacounda. Commissioners, they too have fun from my scenic arrival, they assured me that for a few minutes I did not take the flat penalty for arriving late at the check. I had arrived. I was the happiest man in the world. At the bivouac, where my assistance was waiting for me, not even the time to greet them that I find myself with a cold beer in my hand and I am baptized immediately by the Assomoto Team "le motard de l'impossible".
Taken from the memories of Aldo Winkler on fb