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Agadir Rally March 2006

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Paul Carlyle and Mike Robertson - regular Scottish Championship riders set off for Agadir - and avoided the snow and blizzards the rest of us had to put up with. This is their report.

Enduro d'Agadir – March 2006

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   The Enduro d'Agadir is a three day timecard enduro run by the Swiss Motorcycle Federation based out of Agadir in the south of Morocco. This year Mike Robertson and Paul Carlyle travelled out to Morocco to compete in this event on Honda's provided by Wilderness Wheels. Jointly run by the Joel Udry Organisation (Joel is a former Dakar competitor) and the Agadir Enduro club the event mainly attracts Swiss competitors (both German and French speaking – all briefings were in both languages) but this year Wilderness Wheels provided an American, two Englishmen, a couple of Canadians, a UK based Kiwi and of course les Ecossais.

 Peter Gray and Brad Cairns of Wilderness Wheels rode the event and also (with their team of mechanics) provided and fettled the bikes for all the WW riders. The event was won by Guy Giroux on a stock CRF450X provided by Wilderness Wheels. Sixteenth in the 2006 Dakar, Guy is a factory Suzuki rider in Canada and quite something to watch on the specials.

 Mike's Report 

Our excitement had built up to a crescendo by the time we landed at Agadir and the cold was a shock!  This was soon sorted out when I awoke the next day to bright sunshine and warmth.

 Our first day was spent acclimatising at the beach café’s, drinking the local Flag beer.  Shake down day, the next day, introduced us to our bikes and I elected to use an old but trustworthy and mechanically pristine XR400. The bike was a lot less powerful than the CRF but I figured, bullet proof for when I fell off – which I did a lot of in the subsequent days.

 We took the bikes out to try some of the terrain we would experience during the event.  Riding quickly in sand was not always successful!   We returned to Agadir for scrutineering and signing on for the event which went without a hitch, thanks to the efforts of Yvonne at the SACU for the paperwork, Wilderness Wheels for our gear and Organisation D’Agadir for their procedures. agad02.jpg (248162 bytes)

 Day 1 – Our start time soon arrived and I worried about the bike starting when really I should have been more worried about what lay ahead.  We headed out of town towards the airport then turned off onto 15Km of sandy track until the first special.  This was my first experience of Moroccan sand and I suspect I may have been the slowest through the test, with the deep sand and cut up corners.  After the special, the going wound around the edges of fields, then onto gravely tracks and ultimately rock and boulder strewn roads, then finally onto what can only be described as a trial section that seemed to be about 12 Km long!!  The most technical part for me was the 20km of dry riverbed with the moving boulders: I was so glad to get passed that section and onto the road to Tafroute, our destination for the day and the location for the second special.

 Day 2 – started at the final special of day 1, with me riding in my customary slow fashion but ensuring that I managed to get round.  The route back to Agadir was not nearly so technical as the previous day, but there was still some excitement riding on rocky roads, next to steep drop offs, over the top of mountains and along the sides of a reservoir.  Maybe its because I was beginning to get more used to the conditions and the bike, but I found it slightly easier than the previous day.  The second special of the day had been set in sand dunes.   This was the longest test of the event and for me at least, one of the most difficult.  The combination of deep loose sand and fairly steep severe dunes (with several falling off incidents) meant that I posted a very slow time.  Nonetheless I managed to get through and set off on my way back to Agadir. 

 Unfortunately with the efforts in the dunes and my lack of awareness, I managed to take a wrong turn that cost me about 10km so I was now up against it to get home in time.  Thankfully the police took a benign view of all riders in the event and certainly didn’t apply the speeding laws (at all!) and so I made it back to Park Ferme, but I did need my late allowance minute.

 agad03.jpg (303677 bytes)Day 3 – started with the beach special in front of the town’s promenade.  Locals and tourists looked on in curiosity at riders lashing around in the sand.  After this deep sandy section, we headed out on sandy and wide-open tracks, arriving at the second special in a wooded section.  I still wasn’t fast compared to – well anybody else – but I did feel the most comfortable on this section.  My speed was increasing all the time as I was becoming more used to the conditions and it was a lot less technical.  The section where we turned round was shrouded in mist, so we couldn’t really see the cliffs or the ocean, although we could hear the breakers at the base of the cliff below.  The ride home was via the same specials on the way out and they weren’t any easier, given that we had all been through them already.

  The prize giving in the evening was held at the poolside in the hotel and gave everybody a chance to swap stories and congratulate each other on a very successful event – we even managed a splash of Tartan to keep the Scottish end up.

 I think my most enduring memory of this enduro will be the friendliness of everyone -  riders, locals and kids lining the route, as well as the police who stopped the traffic to allow riders uninterrupted riding on the roads to and from the going. 

 I would like to thank the Enduro D’Agadir organisation, Wilderness Wheels, the SACU for all their help and everybody else who made us feel so welcome.   Will I do it again?  Well it has to rank as one of the best enduro events I have been lucky enough to compete in so yes I think I shall.

  Paul's Reportagad04.jpg (290948 bytes)

 Day zero started fitting tyres (Michelin Baja for me) and mousses to the CRF450X. Wednesday was spent setting up bikes, signing on and on a short ride out to some sandy piste. I made sure I had some "Ecosse" stickers for the bike so everyone would know who they were overtaking.

 Day one (290km) started with Mike and I pushing our bikes up onto the start ramp with Matt from London for a start time of 9:21. The route was marked with orange spray painted arrows on road surfaces, rocks, lamp-posts, cacti and anything else the organisers could find. 50 bikes arrived at the first special test at roughly the same time and the timing equipment meant that bikes were starting about a minute apart. We waited about 30 minutes to get into the test so making the first control by 1106 began to look difficult. It turned out that the control was about 75k from the start and although I pushed I still came in about 4 minutes late. I joined in the general loud protestation in my crap French (I may have complained about a lack of ham sandwiches) then threw some fuel in the bike and headed off.

 The next stage was very rocky and climbed up into the Ante Atlas mountains crossing and re-crossing a dry river bed with increasingly high drops from the edge of the piste. I passed a guy working on a WR450 and discovered he had flown off the edge of a tight corner, landing on loose stones over a river. He was ok but his bike looked a little "modified". After a mid stage check point the track narrowed to a goat track and we headed up over a high pass with constant 2 foot rock steps. No room for rest for 3 or 4k. BMW rider Dirk Thelen was parked up near the top with his tricked up works HP2 bleeding oil from one cylinder head. On one step the bike was more successful than me so the renthal bars got a wee bit bent. Coming down the other side of the pass was fun but the track slowly got easier and wider, then hit tarmac for 20k before time check 2. I was still late – this time by about 10 minutes.

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 With a last check time of 16:36 I arrived at the final test at around half past three. Yet another queue – the test wasn't ready yet. After another 30 minute wait the bikes were set off with 5 to 10 second intervals and the time check was just beyond the end of the test so I made the final control on time. 58th overall at the end of the day. All the time penalties were cancelled due to the delay at the first test. My target for Day 2 was the top 50.

Day 2 (285km) started at the bivouac early with some bike tweeking. Straight into the first test - without delay this time - then off up a river bed climbing back up into rocky mountain pistes. After getting lost for a bit I hooked up with Peter and Kiwi Mike Shepherd to ride the twisty mountain piste.

 I was getting more comfortable using the power of the CRF450 out of the corners, sliding the rear into the rock wall on the left handers and out to the edge of the drop off on the rights. My speed and confidence were rising, I was ahead of the other two guys and I was certain I wouldn't be late on this check. So obviously I locked the front and went over the bars…

 After I popped by right shoulder back into it's socket – teaching the locals some new words in the process – and checked that my bent left thumb still had most of its movement, I set off again, riding rather less well than my Granny.

 I still made the control with 10 minutes to spare. We then had a further wait as this was also to be refuel point one for the day but the truck with the fuel had got lost. After about 35 minutes the officials agreed to waive us on for another 15k to where the fuel was. We were sent off in threes in race number order.

 Riding slowly I was passed by some quads and the dust they created meant I couldn't keep up with them and still see the road. Mike Robertson and I came across a Swiss rider who had missed a turn, gone over the drop and into a ravine of pointy rocks. He seemed to have a broken leg but a marshall soon turned up so we gave up the language battle and headed off. We stopped one of the organiser's 4x4s later and sent them back. Apparently the guy was able to limp around later in the day.

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 Fuel. Tarmac for 25k then a stunning climb along a twisty valley piste to come out high above a reservoir. The almond trees were in flower and the scenery was beautiful. 100 bikes were making very little impact on this hard and dry landscape, not like Scotland.

 At the second control for the day (around 2pm) all times were put back by 25 minutes because of the earlier delay. Test two was on open sand dunes, taped out off camber turns and steep climbs with minimal run up – ace. Post-crash I decided to ride carefully so promptly dropped it on the first turn. About half way round I moved to the left to allow a Husky through but he couldn't hold his line, slid wide and banged me into the left hand tape. I lost the rag and if I could have caught him I had every intention of ramming him off his bike – thankfully I couldn't get close enough. I had him to thank for taking maybe 30 seconds off my test time.

 From the test the course back to Agadir came out of the dunes onto fast packed clay tracks like potholed concrete. Eventually I had to slow down as my left hand wouldn't hold on top the bars.

 Our team Kiwi, Mike Shepherd, stopped in the shade next to the official's quad at the last check point and promptly had his CRF rammed at full speed from behind by a KTM. Mike's helmet was wrecked and his exhaust a little bent but he was OK. The KTM was totalled and its rider was carted away with a broken hand and collar bone.

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The tarmac run to the final control back in Agadir became very tight on time and required some "interesting" traffic techniques (off road up the central reservation anyone). The Agadir gendarmes were at every junction waving us on and turned a blind eye to "borderline" speeds. Fantastic. Still 58th overall.

 Our Kiwi vet gave me a horse pill sized pain-killer which, washed down with two large pints of "Flag Speciale" beer saw me on the start line on the morning of Day 3, a loop of 183km. The first test on the beach twisted over soft sand – good practice for Lossie - I was very slow. The second test was about 30k later in a national park among trees on a hill of sand. My granny would have lapped me. Sadly we had more delays at the second test as we waited our turn for well over half an hour. The route then ran on sandy fast pistes and through a cultivated valley under and over irrigation ducts to the first control.

 At the first control a sign stated that all times had 30 minutes added. I was late by 5 minutes (a number of missed turns in the dust and another "over the bars" excursion). Stupidly, I was to compound this later on by starting my final stage at the appointed time (i.e. five minutes early). 10 minutes lost in one day.

 Before the second check we had a 10k blast along a cliff top beach next to the ocean – flat out on the white sand was amazing. We all arrived early at the second check to be greeted with glasses of sweet mint tea and Moroccans selling hot food if we wanted it – you don't get that at a Scottish enduro.

 The sandy pistes today were fantastic to ride and we were soon back at the final tests of the event – the second test from this morning repeated then a run into town back to the beach for a final 3 minutes of torture. I managed to improve my times on both tests by more than a minute each and rode up on to the finish ramp with 2 minutes to spare.

 Even with the 10 minutes penalty I managed 59th overall and 30th in the licensed class. In retrospect I could have done better if I'd stayed helmet up/wheels down – but there's always next year.