A microphone for Alphan
On the Dakar people were used to seeing Luc Alphand fight hard for victory in the car category and even win the 2006 edition after the best of all battles against his team mate Stephane Peterhansel. Unfortunately in 2009 destiny hit the former ski champ
pretty hard: he had a serious crash while riding his bike in the Rand'Auvergne. His spine injured, Alphand had a very close encounter with death; fortunately, after several rounds of surgery and a long recovery, he is back in the 2010 Dakar. He may not be driving but his enthousiasm is intact and all at the service of his new mission entrusted to him by France Televisions: "I have no regrets because physically I am far from being able to drive or ride. And I am discovering sides of the rally I did not know about. I am a consultant - a reporter apprentice if you want - and I realize it is really hard. Not so much in terms of knowledge of the sport and reporting but because there are a lot of technical constraints, huge technical constraints on the Dakar. For instance, for the Stade 2 show we did yesterday, we had some live interventions from the trail and it was really tough. I would even dare say that this is really stressful for me but I am learning to calm down every day."
A surprise return
Some thought that Frans Verhoeven was already on a plane back to his native Netherlands. But the Dutchman is a tough cookie and it would take much more than a mechanical breakdown for him to give up. Sunday night as the sun was setting on the arrival of stage 2, the BMW rider arrived full throttle almost forgetting to stop and have his card punched in. Indeed, the former plasterer had had a weird day. Stopped at km 8 due to an engine breakdown the Dutchman walked back to the start of the special stage. "I can tell you that walking with biker boots means twice as much pain." After getting an engine the rider - who finished eighth in the 2009 edition of the Dakar - went back to his bike and started repairing. "To get the dead engine out, it took hitting with a hammer... yep, BMW bikes are sturdy." Verhoeven arrived at the end of the special stage in the last 148th position. Even if a lot of people had him dead and burried on this raid - a bit early actually - the biker demonstrated yesterday that he was still capable of riding hard as he finished 11th of yesterday's special stage 24' behind the day's winner only.
Alexandre Giorsetti, from highschool to the bivouac
Six months ago Alexandre Giorsetti was far from imagining that he would be discovering Argentina, Chile and - to say the very least - the Dakar. A motocross driver in his spare time this young bike mechanic who is an apprentice in a vocational training school in Nice, France, ended up embarking on this great adventure initiated by David Casteu."With the teachers in my school David organized a contest and I was selected to come to the rally to do the assistance on one of the bikes of his team", says Alexandre. His mission is to maintain the 690cc KTM of Ludovic Boinard - Casteu's old bike - which he has already been maintaining during the whole preparation and which he hopes to see get to Buenos Aires on January 17th: "Of course I feel involved and I would be really disappointed if he did not make it to the end." If Alex is fascinated by the landscapes, by the event and by the popular support he sees on the trail, he also quickly realized the daily demands of such a rally raid. "When I arrived here a while ago I was told that there are three important rules to abide by for a Dakar to go smoothly: eat, drink and sleep. After a few days, I do realize that these are three real musts." Despite his difficult task, the young mechanic does not hide how happy he is: "I could not have dreamt of a better way to start."
The Peruvians of the Dakar
Jacques Barron admits it readily: "I know now what the Dakar really is." The stage between La Rioja and Fiambala showed him how tough the raid is and put him through a series of events the 47-year old engineer was not ready for. "At one point there was some kind of sandy wadi and the sand had been shaken by 100 bikes or so", he explains as he reaches the bivouac completely exhausted. "Then came a steep sandy climb. The bike had a hard time." And Barron did not think he could dig this deep into his resistance even if he is used to training 200km south of Lima in the Paracas desert. But the Dakar took him to new heights in the realm of intense heat he was not ready for with the coastal breeze he gets riding through Peru. His team mate Carlo Vellutino finds the race nice but he is also suffering from the heat. "Today, we helped each other", he says as he sits next to his team mate. The two cars that complete their Peru Dakar Team have not arrived yet. The meal all six of them are trying to have together as much as possible to chat, to comfort each other, is not happening anytime soon. Fortunately starting in Copiapo, Daniel Higa, journalist for El Comercio de Lima, will be following them. This will be a nice compensation for being far away from their families and will certainly cheer up the 6 members of the Peruvian clan.