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Series focus, day five
The lads of the ATC

There is no race without a finish and no finish without the ATC team. Both serious and jolly, these Dakar fans record the times of the contenders and punch in their race cards at the end of each special stage. This is a well-oiled logistical machine
but still with a great human dimension and a permanent care for compassion and comfort towards those racing the race...

7:00 AM and the sun is rising on Fiambala in the north-western part of Argentina on the foothills of the Andes. The ATC (Arrival Time Control) team is slowly waking up. After a quick breakfast at the bivouac, it is time to put the ATC procedure in place for the arrival of the first contenders expected at around 11:45. The night was short and spent riding on a bus after welcoming the last contenders of the previous day's special stage. But the team is ready, organized and - more importantly - in a good mood. There are six of them doing the same thing each day: five man and one woman, all volunteers. They come from Auvergne, from Pau or even - for one of them - from Dubai to experience the Dakar first hand. The experience of some merges with the enthousiasm of the others. And the happy team is also complemented by three Argentines who are essential to communicate with the contenders on this side of the Atlantic or - quite simply - to get some food or a place to sleep.

One the tent has been installed, the satellite transmission and IT systems are booted and the team splits up in two sub-teams: a pick-up truck is parked at the exact arrival point of the stage with two members of the ATC team on board recording the times of the contenders and 500m further is the STOP point where vehicles have to stop to have their race cards punched in. Just before noon the first bikers start arriving and the first stickers with the times are printed to be put onto the often wet rider cards. Days are long; all the more so that the wind has started blowing at the foot of the sand dunes. Water bottles are distributed to the courageous riders of the Dakar. Then after the bikes come the cars and the dust they bring along. ATC team members put on their masks, their scarves and their sunscreen.

Slowly but surely the hard-working men get more numerous. The day before Christian Califano who was exhausted took some time to have a break under the tent. "It's always a pleasure to be with you again, guys", says the former rugby player a cup of Quilmes in the hand. "Want another sip?", asks 'Bouba', one of the oldest members in the ATC team. "No thanks, I still have a long way to ride", answers Cali before hopping back on his KTM. A few hours later, the sun is starting to set on the Dakar. Some trucks have already arrived but there are still about 20 on the trail. Nico, "El Jefe" as fondly nicknamed by his team mates, asks for instructions to the race HQ. "Tonight, we close around 11:15 PM". Night has now fallen on Fiambala. A Portuguese contender finally arrives at the ATC happy to hear that he is still in the race and even happier to get his food bag. Time to pack up for the ATC... The lads of ATC still have a long ride and the Andes to cross before they can get settled for the next finish Chile side this time. Every day is the same and every day is as joyful and happy as the previous one...



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