Time is on his side
Dakar 2024 |
Stage 12 |
January 18 th 2024 - 23:42 [GMT + 3]
There are a handful of Saudi competitors on this edition. Yazeed Al Rajhi is the most well-known among them, but Abdulhalim Almogheera is the nation’s only biker enrolled on the Dakar this year. He is not the first, for Michal Al Ghuneim achieved the feat before him in 2020 and 2021. In fact, last is a more fitting word for Abdulhalim. Since the Start Camp, he has been progressing at a steady and stolid pace typical of a dromedary. Whilst others race against the clock, Abdu is taking his time.
The members of the organisation team supervising the unassisted bikers in the Original by Motul category know him well: “He’s just finished. In general, he is among the last, but you won’t miss him: first he has a coffee or tea and the work on the bike will wait until afterwards. We’re used to it now. We know that he will be one of the last to close his toolbox and as a result we always save him a place in the second truck to leave the bivouac”. And he knows them as well… apparently. When Abdu takes off his helmet, his face is marked by effort. On his saddle there is a cushion from a sofa, to make sure his behind does not get sore on the link route. Someone passes by, shakes his hand, congratulates him in Arabic, to which he replies with a broad smile and a few friendly words, but it is only when this person moves away that he recognises him! Sat on the folding chair provided by Motul, legs crossed as if sat on the terrace of a café, Abdulhalim lights a cigarette. Whereas the leitmotiv of all the bikers enrolled in the Original by Motul category is to rationalise their tasks in order to save time, he instead gives himself some. On the rest day, he even treated himself to a slice of good times with lunch in town and a hammam, putting off servicing his bike until the evening, which is the opposite of the method advocated by the regulars in the category. Nonetheless, his approach seems to be working, because he is indeed only a few kilometres from the goal, his bike is in good condition and, having finished smoking, he already seems to have freshened up. “The most difficult specials were on stage 1, the 48 HR Chrono stage and today. I’ve discovered all sorts of different terrains that I wasn’t familiar with. I love the dunes, but apart from the region of El Qassim and Al Hofuf, I didn’t know the rest. I’m tired, but after a shower and a massage, I’ll be fine. I’m looking after myself and the bike, taking it easy to make sure I get to the finish,” he said yesterday.
This evening, he will be at the finish, you can bet your bottom dollar on it. However, at the beginning of the rally, few people would have believed in the chances of Abdulhalim’s method. This weekend, he will return home to Al Hofuf to rejoin his wife and three children. Then, on Monday, like any other, he will climb behind the wheel of the truck he drives in the morning for the local government. In the afternoon, he will take a trip to his garage to meet his two mechanic colleagues, which is his second job. On the social networks, he will continue chatting with Mason Klein. “Mason came to see us and we made friends. I helped him to get his bike to the bivouac when he broke down on one of the link routes and after that he came almost every day to help me and catch up on news. He’s invited me to go to ride in the USA to teach me how to navigate”. Mason will not have much work to do with Abdu, because the Saudi’s technique involves solely focusing on the boxes in the roadbook which feature waypoints. Apart from on the prologue, he has not missed a single one, even making an about turn if necessary and going back on his tracks until the following box is marked with WP in a circle. It is an original approach to navigation, but like the way he manages his time at the bivouac, it works. Abdu still has a yellow background on his bike plate numbered 122, which means he will be able to climb on to the podium reserved for finishers this evening, to complete the adventure, which was his objective. “Today, I increased my pace to move up the rankings, before that I was just making sure,” he pointed out yesterday. In 19th place out of 21 unassisted bikers in the Original by Motul category and 87th in the overall bike rankings, more than fifty hours behind Ricky Brabec, Abdulhalim is set to achieve his goal. In Saudi Arabia, everybody now knows him, because since Yazeed Al Rajhi exited the race, the local television channels only have eyes for Abdulhalim Almogheera!