Today, Don is feeling gutted. The few hours of sleep he got last night were spent having nightmares of falling off high dunes. He feels as if he has let his team down and worst of all, his family, friends and supporters. But I think you will disagree when you read what follows.
There he was in the middle of the dunes at 66Km, with his bike buried in the sand. It was still daylight. He had activated his sentinel beeper to warn oncoming traffic that there was a bike down and to avoid the area. A co driver in one of the big trucks had come over to help him dig out and that is when the other truck hit them.
He figured that had he been on the bike, he would be dead. The driver of the truck did not activate his own sentinel at 200 meters out to warn of his approach and did not pay heed to Don’s warning sentinel.
Don related that the fellow helping dig out had his arm ripped open, probably requiring many stitches. The bike was wrenched out of Don’s hands and he was knocked backwards. At this point spectators and a French television crew rushed over to make sure he was OK. They were shocked when he told them he was going to continue.
So continue he did…until 12 Km from the end when Natalie got the satellite call. Don was stuck in another dune, digging his bike out, tired, frustrated and dehydrated from an almost 12 hour day spent on the course in 40 degree weather.
He dug himself out and kept going without light or navigation and a badly damaged bike. At 4 kilometres from the end of the Special his bike gave up for good. He kept working on it for a few hours, changed the clutch in the dark, but nothing was working.
The medical people repeatedly begged him to give up, that there was no hope his bike was going to run, but Don refused, saying he could make it in. Eventually the ASO organizers told him that even if he could get the bike running and get through the last 4 kilometres he would not make his start time the next morning.
It was at 4 kilometres from the end of the Special that he was forced to admit defeat. Don said “There was no way I was going to quit…. I would have done anything to stay in the rally and finish that Special”
It was when he thought he was going to die in the desert last night, that he realized all that he has to lose- his life, his family, friends, business and his future. The loss of everything for what has now become a blood sport.
At this point he swears he will never ride another Dakar. The cars and trucks are not using their sentinels to warn riders of their approach. Competitors are being injured by others who want to win or place or finish at any cost. It has become like the Hunger Games, everyone for himself.
It has been said over the past few days in the bivouac that the Dakar Rally used to be mostly for amateurs with a few professionals. Now it is mostly professionals with a few amateurs. Lots and lots of huge money riding on a win. No one is enforcing the rules and we can only hope that team mate Simon Pavey will make it through safely.
We are so grateful that Don has survived, not unscathed, but not injured. And he is still our hero.
Please feel free to comment and send messages as we are in touch with him throughout the day.
Read the press release here.
Watch the video by the French Television Crew here. It says Stage Four, but that is an error, as don did not make it to Stage four.