Klein never says die

Dakar 2024 | Stage 5 | AL-HOFUF > SHUBAYTAH
January 10 th 2024 - 11:42 [GMT + 3]

Others might have thrown in the towel a long time ago, but Mason Klein is hanging on behind the handlebar of an unreliable Kove. The American is determined to keep going, come hell or high water, fuelled by the sheer joy of riding in the wild.

At just 22, Mason Klein is already a Dakar standout. He is a one-of-a-kind rider who never says die. Some see him as an acrobat daredevil, others as wild and reckless, especially those who never extended an official team offer despite his obvious talent. Two years ago, the young American made waves in his Dakar debut, finishing in the top 10 as the highest-ranked rookie. Last year, he was in the running for a podium spot after clinching stage 2, only for a heavy crash following a tangle with Adrien van Beveren to knock him out of the race shortly after the rest day. Critics were quick to lambast his rash bravado, but it seems to bounce right off Klein, who seems to inhabit a world uniquely his own. Unfazed by the dearth of offers from top-tier teams, Klein lined up for his third Dakar this year, cobbling together a family outfit, Korr Off-road Racing, and joining forces with the Chinese maker Kove. A gamble that nearly unravelled when his machine got stuck in customs before the start of the race. Still, the Californian eventually retrieved it just in time for the prologue, where he secured a top 10 finish. Instead of opting for a cushier starting position in the first stage, Klein boldly chose to lead, much to the amusement of his rivals. "I wanted to be out front because I love navigating and opening the road", he explained. A few days earlier, he had acknowledged the need for patience, not just attacking but navigating. The result? He clinched third place in the opening stage. Alas, the dream soon turned into a nightmare. The very next day, a flurry of mechanicals sent him careening down the leader board. After dragging himself to the Al Salamiya bivouac dead last, he faced further challenges on the road to Al Hofouf. This time, the Kove rider needed medical attention following an encounter with a stubborn camel grass bush, quipping, "The Saudi desert is tougher than the Californian one. I got tackled by a bush tougher than me". Klein is tough as nails. A few hours earlier, he had spent an eternity tinkering with his motorbike after a long night ride. "The chain derailed, damaging the gear shifter", he recounted, also mentioning injection issues. Yesterday, after getting treated, he spent ages tracking down an oil leak that had turned his motorbike into a makeshift fryer. "Our lack of testing is catching up with us", he admitted. "I discovered the bike when I got to Saudi Arabia. Earlier testing could've prevented these hitches." Yet nothing dampens his spirit. "Even if I finish dead last, what matters to me is crossing the finish line. I love riding in the desert. My place at the finish is of secondary importance." Already trailing the leaders by over ten hours, it is not like Mason Klein had much of a choice.

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