It’s not news to those in the know that in less than four days there will be an Irishman taking on the toughest endurance race in the world. Oran O Kelly is already en-route with his team, Vendetta Racing UAE, to the town of AlUla where they will set up camp and take off into the unknown on the 5th January.
The incredibly beautiful yet brutal race takes place in the Saudi sand over two weeks. During that time, the race is broken down into stages. The distance and format of each stage is different, with some being more challenging than others. The riders are completely self-supported while they’re out in the desert, and can only receive mechanical assistance when they are back at their camp, also known as a bivouac. All you need to do is take a look at the photos of Toby Price arriving back to camp with his tyre literally held on by cable ties to understand the special type of ‘MacGyver’ skills required to finish each day.
This year, there is also a new 48 hour chrono stage that has been introduced. On stage six the riders will race a special loop until the clock strikes four. At that time, they must make their way to the next of six bivouacs that line the stage and camp there until 7am the following day. They will be given the barest of camping supplies, and spend their night unassisted by their team with no contact to the outside world. With no outside contact, the rivals will have no information on where they rank compared to each other, and will start the following day blind to the standings. It will be the longest the motorbike competitors will have spent on a single stage in Dakar history.
Although this will be Orans first time ever competing in the Dakar, last year he was able to work with a team at the event so he could get a real taste of what was in store. The biggest surprise was the temperatures. Although when you think of the desert in Saudi, you think of scorching days of 30 plus degrees. What nobody tells you is that at night time temperatures can often plummet to just two degrees Celsius. This makes preparing for the race even tougher, as you really have to pack for all eventualities.
Oran will be competing at this years edition of the race at number 94. You can follow all of his progress on his Instagram and Facebook pages, as well as on the Dakar website. If you want to catch the highlights of the event, Redbull TV is the place to go.
We will also be following Orans progress throughout the event, and wish him the very best of luck as he represents Ireland on the worlds stage at the very highest level of competition.