From Athens to Gibraltar: stretch it to the max.Motorcycle Diaries
During all these years riding a bike we have met several people that eat and breathe motorcycles. They are passionate and basically want to do nothing else than ride their bikes. A lot of those people are famous and everybody knows them, but probably the bigger number of them, are not really well known.
As this is a race for non-professionals we don’t have a truck/van bringing our bikes to the start of the race… so I left my hometown Turin a couple of days before the race and drove all the way down... I took my bike, embarked in Brindisi and travelled to Patras. Once in Athens I was really stoked! I was very eager to start.
The race could not have started better: I completed the first stage on my Yamaha Super Ténéré just behind an Austrian on a Yamaha WR450, a Dakar-veteran who was really set on winning the race. Can you imagine how thrilled I was when I came in second?
Stage two went smoothly too, but in the third stage I experienced some trouble: I broke the oil pan after a jump. Darn. My bike started to lose oil! I managed to finish, asked for assistance and fixed my motorcycle. Ugh.
What followed next was a great trip: Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia proved to be great riding countries. Everyday I rode 600/700 km, slept in tents and had to get up early for the next stretch. A little tiring, yes, but I was well-prepared and never felt too unconformable.
Driving through Italy was a different story, though. I lost a lot of time riding alongside the Po: we were told that we would encounter sandy roads. No problem. My mechanic and I decided to lower the tire pressure instead of replacing the two tires. I am used to riding on sandy surfaces, so this should have been an easy piece. Alas! Instead of sand me and some fellow twin-riders found ourselves stuck in the mud! As we did not bring the necessary tools to remove mud-clogged front fenders we found ourselves removing the mud with our hands. We had to stop after some kilometers – over and over again – to de-mud the front-wheel, inevitably loosing a lot of time. The result was that I lost more than two hours and found myself lowered to the ninth place in the overall classification and the seventh category.
Needless to say, but I was very disappointed. I did not want to have the same experience twice; I found myself a computer and studied the stages of the days to come. I noticed that France would become quite an ordeal, since there was a very slow stretch where I would be unable to make up for the lost time. And in Spain I would need my skills to navigate through the ‘special’ stages. But everything went just fine: I felt very energetic when I arrived in Spain and came in first after a special stage in the Monegros-desert. The day after I came in second. I went from ninth to fifth place in the overall classification and third class.
Things were going well, until Murphy imposed his law: the stage in Portugal was a hard nut to crack. The track was very sandy, but since I was very focused I managed to get trough quite well. I had moved up a place and was already fourth in the overall classifications and second class. With only three days left, I could see a successful ending, but a fast right-hander decided differently: the rain had dug a big hole in the track; the rear wheel got stuck and I was thrown out of the saddle at high-speed, catapulting me into a barb-wired fence with wooden stakes. Hell! After a couple of minutes another rider stopped and helped me to raise the bike. I wanted to end the race so baldy, but I could not: I had my wrist broken in three places and my shoulder twice…