Going the distance together

Dakar 2023 | Stage 1 | ALULA > AL HENAKIYAH
January 1 st 2023 - 21:42 [GMT + 3]

Sporting race numbers 108 and 109, Julien Barthélémy and Kevin Durand vowed to cross the finish line of the Dakar arm in arm. After a failed attempt last year, they are determined to make it happen this time round.
The sun has yet to dip below the horizon when Julien and Kevin whip out their cards at the finish of the first special of the rally. The dust covering their faces barely conceals a mix of fatigue and satisfaction. "We tackled a monster of a stage from day one", blurts out Julien. "When I catch whoever complained that last year's course was too easy…" The lads burst into laughter. "We faced some beautiful dunes", explains Kevin. "But I expected the first day to be a more relaxed affair. We're going to need some rest before the next stage." In the meantime, they take the time to light up a fag while shooting the breeze with the Alpha 3 crew manning the ASS. It must be said that Julien Barthélémy knows his way around the organisation of the Dakar. "I worked here for over a decade", he admits. "At the end, I was in charge of the starts of the specials." Yet the thought of entering the rally had never really crossed his mind. "When you are part of the organisation, you enjoy the human adventure", he says adamantly. "Indeed, without Kevin, I would have never come up with the idea." The natives of the French department of Corrèze met over a beer or two before getting to know each other better on a riding camp organised by Julien. Yes, you read that right —Julien teaches off-road racing and runs outings near his home. He was the one who gave Kevin Durand a taste for rallies. The former is 40 years old, the latter is 30. They clicked straight away. "We became friends and started riding together", adds Julien. "Kevin had never done off-road racing until six years ago." The idea of entering the Dakar slowly grew in the minds of the two bikers. "A shared project, a crazy gamble", they say in unison. They took the plunge last year. Barthélémy made it to the finish of the 44th Dakar, but Durand unfortunately exited the race in stage 6 due to a broken collarbone. It goes without saying that the two lads were not going to let this injustice stand. "Last year we came here because of him", says Kevin, pointing at his buddy. "This time round, we are here because of me. I got hurt, and we had to remedy the situation. We built our Dakar project together and we'll finish it together!" Surprisingly, they insist that it is not that hard to ride as a duo. "I spend my life riding for others", points out Julien. "Adjusting my pace is no big deal. In fact, it might be the other way round this year. Kevin is in better condition than I am. We take turns riding in front. It's pretty smooth. As for navigation, we keep an eye out for one another. It's easier to identify mistakes than when you ride alone, not least because the more tired you get, the easier it is to mess up."

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