Le Tour du Senegal Part 2: The Race

Thursday 5th November 2009

by Dan Smith

Fortunately I got my bag back in time for the race and was able to put my bike together for the prologue.

I had a good start to the Tour with a top 10 on the first road stage and a finish in the bunch on the 2nd stage… but it all went tragically wrong on the 3rd stage when I was crippled by the heat. After 90km of the 140km stage I began to feel ‘a bit hot’, perhaps because it was getting on 45 Degrees Celsius. After 120km I was in a group 2 or 3 minutes down feeling lightheaded and wanting to vomit. Fortunately I had a couple of teammates who gave me a push and kept getting me bottles! I wasn’t the only one having a bad day in the heat or the only one regretting not having had a bit more time to acclimatise!  I finished the stage wondering how on earth I would finish the race if I continued to struggle with the heat for the rest of the race.

Stage 3 Heat Stroke

Heat stroke on stage 3

However, after a few stages finishing in the bunch I started to get used to the heat and to get some good feelings in the legs, and on stage 6 I got myself in the early break… Getting in the early break on the longest stage of the race with temperatures still over 40 degrees might be said to be ill-advised (or completely barmy), but that’s where I found myself with less than 20km of the 200km stage complete.  With 3 Senegal riders including the 4th placed on GC in the break, we managed to get over 5 minutes on the peleton… with 130km to go 🙂  At 15km to go we were down to 45 seconds so I decided to go it alone.  Still feeling good and having already won a stage in similar circumstances in the Tour of Cameroon I was hopeful.  Unfortunately no water for the previous half hour finally led to my head falling off with less than 10km to go after over 160km up the road.  The team car had dissappeared back to the bunch some time earlier to feed my team, but had never got back up to the break before the gap went under a minute thanks to two of my teammates puncturing… bloody inconsiderate if you ask me!  To cut a long story short, I got caught by the bunch with less than 10km to the finish, and then dropped with 4km to go…

Now you might think that after the efforts of stage 6, stage 7 wouldn’t be a target for me.  But with the stage being in Dakar on a circuit that could have been purpose made for me I decided I’d give it a go.  I even turned down the offer of payment to ride for another team saying that I was going to go for the win.  Profitting from one of the GC contender’s team chasing down the early break I was able to counter attack on my own with 4 laps of the 4km circuit to go.  I gained a max gap of about 40 seconds and stayed ahead to win by 10 seconds.

Stage 7,  Dakar - Dakar

Stage 7 victory at Dakar

Final Part: vomiting, diarrheoa, salmonella, typhoid, missed trains and lost bags.

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