Sherco-TVS’s Indian rider Aravind KP is back in the Dakar bivouac that has moved to Tupiza in Bolivia. He hasn’t broken his shoulder – in one of the many falls that he had on day 4’s stage he hyper extended his shoulder and hit rocks just below his shoulder blade at the back. He is fortunate not to have broken any (more) bones but he is in pain and cannot lift his shoulder completely.
Contrary to what we heard yesterday from the team, his Sherco RTR 450 rally bike is not severely damaged and is on its way to the Tupiza bivouac on the recovery truck. While the rally is over for Aravind, he isn’t taking the next flight back to India, he wants to carry on with the team and at least get some experience of the Dakar and its challenges.
I met him just after he got to the bivouac and he told me, “The stage was really, really rough. Full of off-piste (no marked tracks) sections and full of sand. I reached the 40km mark and it got tougher and tougher. I got into the trail section and I couldn’t grip the handle bars and I went down, hit myself on the rock and hyper extended my shoulder. And I winded myself.”
Aravind broke two bones in his wrist on the prologue stage and even though he was determined to continue, the injury meant he didn’t have the strength to grip the handle bars or even use the clutch properly. “The whole body was compensating for my wrist. And since I couldn’t go fast, I would crash on the corners because there were deep ruts in the sand.”
Riding off-road demands a certain amount of commitment, which essentially means speed. If you aren’t fast enough on the loose stuff, the bikes snakes underneath you which means you have to fight it even harder. Aravind neither had the strength to ride the bike to the speeds required nor did he have the strength to fight it.
“I was very tired, I had crashed many times before that since I couldn’t maintain my speed in the sand. And you really can’t stay up if you don’t have the correct speed on the sandy sections. And I got tired doing it, the same thing over and over again. At the start of the stage, the bike is around 140kg with full load of fuel and every time I go down and I lift the bike there is so much more energy I am losing which you can use for next 30-40km.”
The last crash ended it for Aravind. He was so exhausted that he got dehydrated, his 3 litre water bottle was finished, the heat and exhaustion got to him, and he finally had to call for the medical chopper to evacuate him. The Dakar has claimed another victim.
Bad weather yesterday meant the organisers put him up at a hotel where he could at least get a hot water bath and a good night’s rest and they’ve now brought him to the bivouac in Bolivia where he joins the team and continues for the rest of the event.
And he sends his thanks to all the fans back home. Connectivity is very poor here and once he gets into civilization he will post a message to his fans on social media. The important thing is he is okay and there are no more serious injuries.