When I discuss training methods with other riders it seems the most popular way of preparing for races is to spend hours on the bike, getting through endless tanks of fuel. Personally, that’s never been my thing. In early November, in the run up to the Dakar, we always have a last shake down before everything gets shipped off to South America and then I literally don’t touch a bike until I ride my 450 Rally into scrutineering at the beginning of January.
Clearly some people think I am winding them up when I tell them this, but it is the absolute truth. For me fitness has always been the most important factor and I spend many hours in the gym, often at altitude and also on a static bike and cross country skiing, which where I live in Andorra, is as simple as walking out the door and clipping a pair of skis on!
Apart from being, in my opinion, the best form of preparation for an event as gruelling as the Dakar, it also means that you don’t get saturated and are actually happy to climb aboard the saddle come race day. The other advantage is that it reduces the risk of a pre-race injury – unless of course you have a fall while skiing, as I did just before the recent first round of the rally-raid world championships in Abu Dhabi…
It wasn’t a big fall and at first I thought I’d got away with it but when my right shoulder began to seize up I decided to head down to Presport in Perpignan to consult my doctor, who promptly pronounced me ‘out of action for 3 weeks’ with damaged ligaments.
Of course injuries are an occupational hazard of any professional sportsman and given how long I’ve been competing I have been extremely lucky. This is the first time I have missed a major competition due to injury and I have only failed to finish one Dakar, back in 2002, when I went out with a dislocated hip.
I am also lucky that I’m not trying to win any championships, so there’s no pressure for me to race before I am fully fit. For me the Dakar is by far the biggest priority and as long as I’m ok for that neither KTM nor any of my sponsors put any pressure on me to rush to get ready for another race. And it is surely for this reason that I am still in pretty good physical shape. I have some mates who raced at high level in moto-x or enduro who are younger than me and you can almost hear them creaking when they get out of a chair, whereas I’m pretty much aches and pain free.
Instead of racing on the Desert Challenge I’ve been busy with the doctor and the physiotherapist regaining flexibility and strength in my shoulder. It isn’t a lot of fun but it is vitally important, as I know the effort I put in now will pay dividends for years to come.
Happily it hasn’t stopped from taking part in my next competitive outing. The main reason I can do it is because it is a car race, the Tour Auto Optic 2000 to be precise, which I will be competing in with a rather tasty 1972 Corvette C3R that puts out a tyre shredding 550 bhp! The format is a little like an enduro in that you have a liaison and about 3 specials a day, some on closed road and others on circuits. Last year we had a lot of mechanical problems and spent some of the 5 days on the back of a truck, so this time I’m hoping to do a little better. As the car has been provided by one of my main sponsors, Maison France Comfort the most important thing however is not to bend it!
I’ll let you know how I get on…