False day of rest for the HIMOINSA Team
The team took the opportunity to visit Miguel Puertas, who is waiting to be transferred to Santiago de Chile, and from there to Spain for surgery. The assistance truck was able to reach Iquique and is already working on the bikes ridden by Rosa and Antonio for the marathon stage tomorrow.
It is called a day of rest because the riders do not ride their bikes, but after six stages, with two of them practically unassisted, now it is anything but rest. The team members have had a busy day. The first stop for the HIMOINSA Team was at the hospital where Miguel Puertas is waiting to be moved to Spain after his accident yesterday. This is how Miguel told us about what he was going through at the moment, still full of anger. “I am very disappointed because throughout the whole stage everything was going well, I wasn’t taking any unnecessary risks and considering that the next day was the rest phase, I could regain my strength for the second part of the Rally. What happened is that in the final kilometres of the stage, the route taken by the trucks coincided with that of the motorbikes. The trucks go too fast and usually activate their Sentinel system to warn you that they are going to overtake when they are right behind you and without slowing down. On a narrow sandy path, a truck activated the Sentinel to pass me. There was very little warning. The only option was to accelerate and get to the end of the path before the truck. Physically there was no room for both of us to pass at the same time. Just when I accelerated to perform the manoeuvre quickly and make way for the truck, the wheel of the bike got caught in the sand and I was thrown off, flying above the bike. Hitting the floor, my first point of support was my hand and that’s when I realised that my elbow was out of place and my arm was broken. The truck was only a few inches away when it passed me, I almost got run over.” Miguel Puertas told us what happened while suffering from serious symptoms of fatigue and felt sorry for leaving the rest of the team alone in the Dakar Rally.
Miguel was paid a visit by each and every one of his team members, even the mechanics and support manager, Manolo Diaz, people who are like brothers to him. The assistance truck completed more than 2,000 km to join up with Rosa Romero and Antonio Gimeno and prepare the bikes ahead of the marathon stage which lies ahead. Also passing through the hospital wards was the Executive Director of HIMOINSA The Energy, Francisco Gracia.
Meanwhile, Rosa Romero has taken a big step reaching this rest stage, although she knows the second part of the rally will be gruelling. “To be at the rest stage is a giant step but still just a step, there is one more step to go. The goal up to now was to get here. We’ve been through all sorts of things but we are here now without any problems.” We wanted to ask Rosa Romero what she thought was the toughest stage so far this year. “The second stage was in two parts, a very fast part and then an off-road area with bushes and very high temperatures. I had to take my clothes off because I was becoming dizzy, I had lost Antonio but found some spectators who gave me water and a food stick. I was with them for about twenty minutes; that allowed me to recover and finish the stage.” Another major problem experienced by the team in the latter stages was the absence of the assistance truck. The Catalan rider told us how they have been able to overcome these obstacles: “When we reached the third stage, because our truck always carries the HIMOINSA flags we can always find it quickly, but this time we couldn’t see them and we were told that the truck had broken down. We were able to talk to them and they said they were not going to arrive. The bike needs maintenance and not having our mechanics and tools was very hard, but in the Dakar Rally the fellowship among the teams is highly valued. We were given clothing, tools … On the second day we started to really suffer, there are a lot of things you need from the truck. Now we have to focus on the fact that we managed to get this far and that we are all together”.
We also had time to hang out with Antonio Gimeno, the Madrid rider is experiencing this year’s Dakar from another point of view and the first thing he did was to talk about the hugely important retirement of Miguel Puertas. “What a blow, Miguel was our only sure thing, a guarantee of success. The area where we found the bike was not a place where riders tend to fall, we were looking for him, we found the bike but he was nowhere to be seen. Seeing that the bike started ok, I feared the worse. We were about 20 or 30 km from the finish line and when we got to the special stage they confirmed what had happened. He’s really affected, because no one had more enthusiasm than him. We wanted to review the gruelling second stage with Antonio, where there was even the death of a rider to mourn. “In the second stage, I was amazed. When I did the Dakar before I was further ahead and in this rally where we are further back we found ourselves in a trap. With the cars overtaking us it was impossible to move, it was incredibly hot and there wasn’t a drop of air. Every 300 or 400 m a rider was thrown off. I asked Rosa to make a special effort and told her we had to come off the track in whatever way we could so we could eat and drink” Antonio knows that now he has to back up what he has done in this first part and dedicate this Dakar to Miguel Puertas.
At the moment the team of mechanics are working on the bikes so that tomorrow there will be no problems and our two riders who still have chances in the race are able to achieve their goal of reaching the podium in Buenos Aires.
Stage 7. Iquique / Uyuni (Liaison: 396 km, Special stage: 321 km)
The difficulties accumulate in the first part of the Bolivian marathon stage. From the start, the long liaison gives the riders a morning wake up, before a progressive climb to more than 3500 m. Once on the high plateaus, the start of the special stage begins, with the importance of giving utmost care to following the road-book, to be prepared for the abundance of intersections. Among the challenges of the day, the economy of the tyres could be very significant. Once in Uyuni, only the outward part of the marathon stage has been completed.