The tortoise and the hares

Dakar 2024 | Stage 10 | ALULA > ALULA
January 16 th 2024 - 23:46 [GMT + 3]

The lone Belgian motorbike rider in the Dakar is racing in Original by Motul. Jérôme Martiny, the incarnation of quiet aplomb, is banking on consistency, a strategy that could hand Belgium an epic triumph.

Jérôme Martiny upped the ante for his third Dakar when he put his name down for the Original by Motul competition, even though he knew that mechanics could be his Achilles' heel. Little did he anticipate that his troubles would begin while still on Belgian soil. He was busy tying up the last details when his brand-new KTM's engine bailed out on him. It was too late to come up with a plan B, so he had his broken motorbike shipped to Saudi Arabia, where he reunited with it just in time to go through scrutineering. By this point, he was a bundle of nerves. "There was an original defect, but luckily, KTM moved lightning-fast to sort it out and get my bike all set for the prologue." Once that was out of the way, Jérôme was finally able to focus on the mission at hand. His mantra? "Keep calm and carry on": "It took me some time to ease back into my rhythm because I hadn't tackled a rally all year and the bike was fresh out of the box. I was a bit off the pace at the start, but that's part of my race strategy anyway. I'm playing the waiting game. I think consistency always pays dividends. In my third Dakar, it feels like it's paying off even better. I stick to this approach because there are loads of riders who go faster than me, but almost half of them end up throwing in the towel."

© Marcelo Machado de Melo
© Marcelo Machado de Melo

A few tumbles with no real drama added some spice to his first week, but the Belgian firefighter especially remembers a long excursion in stage 4: "I missed a waypoint and had no clue where I was. I came across Mason Klein, who appeared to have made the same blunder, so I piggybacked on him to get back on track. Then, he sped away, he twists the throttle far more than I do!". Next up were the Empty Quarter and the jaw-dropping 48 h chrono stage. "I was a bit wary because dunes aren't my strong suit. I honestly thought we were in for a rough ride, but the opposite happened —I had a blast, it was even my best stage of the rally". In reality, riding for miles and miles while only resting for short nights is starting to take its toll. "David Castera warned that the second week would be tough, and he wasn't kidding. My body's tapping into its reserves. I'll ride as smart as I can to avoid slipping up so close to the finish." With three stages to go, the former three-time Belgian enduro champion is indeed holding his ground, sitting in 27th place overall and, more importantly, second in the Original by Motul ranking —exactly what he had in mind when he started the race.

© Marcelo Machado de Melo

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