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Canada's Trahan tames the Dakar

Patrick Trahan of Montreal has beaten the Dakar Rally in his third attempt, only the fourth Canadian ever to do so in the Rally's 32 years (Georgetown's Lawrence Hacking was the first in 2001).

  • The beginning of morning rush hour, cars on the highway traveling to and from downtown

<p>Patrick Trahan of Montreal has beaten the Dakar Rally in his third attempt, only the fourth Canadian ever to do so in the Rally's 32 years (Georgetown's Lawrence Hacking was the first in 2001). </p>
<p>Trahan's first go at the world's toughest off-road rally was 10 years ago, and he's dedicated his life toward finishing it ever since. This year, he rode a Honda CRF450X, with the Netherlands-based Team Honda Europe providing critical backup and support work. </p>
<p>On his blog, he posted the following: "My dream is complete fact. At 15, I told myself that someday I will do the Dakar. Ten years ago, I realized that dream and now 10 years later, I ended my dream. What emotions!" </p>
<p>He had his share of problems, including a 120 km/h crash that both he and the bike were lucky to get away from relatively unscathed. Bad fuel caused him problems (as it did many of the other competitors), and of course he suffered from the fatigue of two solid weeks of punishing daily multi-hundred-kilometre off-road riding, saying in his blog that he was in danger of falling asleep on the bike more than once. </p>
<p>For example, in spite of being in good shape and relatively well-rested, Trahan had a bad day at Stage 10, only two days after the only rest day in the two-week event: "I crashed hard, riding like a beginner. In a corner two bikes and a quad went straight on and I followed them. I fell off the bike, but it had no damage. I lost my rhythm, and started doing things wrong. I tried to get the bike out of the rocks by hand, and fell. The bike landed on a rock which caused the tank to leak … I am unhappy with today, and I hope it will get better tomorrow."</p>
<p>It did. Hacking, although out of his first attempt in the car division on the second day, accompanied the rally entrants and told Trahan on the rest day that he looked in good shape to finish, and so it worked out. After his near-miss, Trahan decided to settle down, ride a bit more conservatively, and make it to the finish without worrying about racing the others, or what his position would be. In the end, he finished a more than respectable 55th out of 161 starters and only 88 finishers. </p>
<p>Even on the last day he had problems to overcome. "I still had a fuel problem as early as the beginning of the link. I tried to find [the] fault but I could not before leaving for the Special. I ran out of gas three times during the stage. A hose was jammed and I did not know so I drove on just one tank. To my delight, I was into the crowd so I managed to find the essence [fuel], I lost a lot of time! </p>
<p>"Wow, [after the Special Stage] I had more than 300-km liaison to ride … with one tank! On the road, I passed a tanker truck and I motioned him to stop. He gave me gasoline directly from the tank. Only here can it happen. But I crossed the Finish Line of Dakar! I am so happy, [to] finish the Dakar finally!"</p>
<p>This year's overall winner in the bike division was Cyril Despres, who is French but lives in Andorra. Riding for the unstoppable KTM team – which has won the last 10 Dakars and had more than half the entries this year – Despres added to his 2005 and 2007 victories.</p>
<p>His closest competitor on speed, and favourite after his 2009 victory, was Spanish KTM teammate Marc Coma. Coma was more than up to speed (taking four of the 14 Special Stages) but fell victim to nearly seven hours of penalties in two separate incidents.</p>
<p>Second and third went to first-time podium riders. Second was Norwegian rider Pal Anders Ullevalseter on another KTM. After a great day-by-day seesaw battle throughout the rally, he finished only seven minutes ahead of Chilean rider Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia). It was Aprilia's first top finish in the 32-year-old Dakar, a great result for the predominantly road-oriented Italian factory. </p>
<p>Rumour is that the Dakar will return to Africa for 2011, but the South American venue for the last two years has proven worthy of its storied African heritage. </p>

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