“I’m just happy to be back”, says C S Santosh sitting on the bench at the Hero Motorsports tent in the bivouac at the end of day four of the 2017 Dakar. He looks finished. Dejected. Overcome by exhaustion. If I didn’t know better I’d think he is on the verge of tears. He’s definitely frustrated.
“We worked so hard to move up (yesterday). Now it’s all gone. It’s so easy to lose heart.”
Day four of the Dakar from Tucuman to Jujuy in Argentina has taken a massive toll on the riders. Almost 40 riders are out on this stage, including Aravind KP who had a crash and has injured his shoulder. C S Santosh also had a miserable day and in his own words, “everything that could go wrong, went wrong”.
Problems struck CS within the first few kilometres itself when the clutch started slipping. Then the route took them through dry sandy riverbeds that everybody struggled through.
“I was lucky. You know when you are lucky, when you are getting away with stuff. I am still getting away with lots of stuff so luck is still riding on my side. I had lots of crashes. Small crashes, some crashes that would have been pretty big but somehow managed to save it. And then CS’s navigation problems started and he lost his way.
“I couldn’t even navigate. It was so hard. The thing about navigation is you need to be able to process the information but today the stage was so hard, all my processing power was used in just trying to ride the motorcycle.
CS is a top class athlete, super-fit by the standards of Indian sportsmen. And yet he was finished. “I had no energy. I completely expended myself.
“Everything got compounded. I made so many mistakes, crashed way too many times and that throws your rhythm. The mind was definitely not there.
And compounding all these problems, CS also missed a way point and was slapped with an hour’s penalty that dropped him way down to 87th. That makes it doubly hard as he will have slower riders in front of him and overtaking them will mean CS will have to take risks. He tells me that had he stuck with the top 40 for the first section of the Dakar then finishing in the top twenty by Buenos Aires would have been entirely possible. But now that’s an uphill task.
“Today was madness. And tomorrow it all starts again.”