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Meet the lone rider doing Dakar the hard way

Meet the lone rider doing Dakar the hard way

Posted by Juan Gavasa on January 08, 2015

While the 2015 Dakar Rally competitors were passing over the huge ceremonial starting ramp outside the presidential palace in Buenos Aires to celebrate the start of the race, local Argentine Léon Amespil was doing his own symbolic send-off in the nearby neighbourhood of Palermo.

There his family, friends and neighbours gathered to wish him luck as he set off on his second Dakar adventure. "This was my own starting ramp, and for me it was more emotional than the official one," explained the 45-year-old who has fallen head over heels for the magic of the race created by Frenchman Thierry Sabine in 1979.

Amespil is racing in the 'Malles-Moto' category in which the riders receive absolutely no help, and have to fix any any mechanical problem by themselves. "That is the Dakar at its roots and so that's how I like to race it. I am a bit of a romantic when it comes to things like that," he says.

Such competitors are a breed apart and even the pro riders admire their bravery and commitment. "They treat us with lots of respect because they know just how difficult the Dakar Rally is without anyone to come and help you when times get tough."

Before taking on the Dakar for the first time last year, Amespil underwent intense preparation by taking part in rounds of the Argentine Cross Country Championship. "Until I started, I had no idea what a bike was, let alone how it worked mechanically. Now I like to think I'm an expert," he says as he pats his Yamaha.

Those competing in the 'Malles-Moto' category have an assigned space in the bivouac, where they can store their belongings and tools in a truck supplied by Elf. The rider has to do the mechanical up-keep of his own bike without assistance however.

"Last year I would finish and get straight to sorting out the bike, without really looking after myself. I've changed my approach a bit this year: the rider has to come first and then I do what is necessary to sort out with the bike. Because if the rider's not well, it doesn't matter how good the bike is."

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