Joan Pedrero, the return to the essence of the Dakar: “In the elite you don’t enjoy it” | Sports

His companions, the vast majority of them fans looking to have a unique experience, cannot believe the skills of Joan Pedrero (Canet de Mar, 44 years old) with the motorcycle. While they’re still fixing theirs past dinner time, he’s sleeping soundly in his tent. But everyone learns from him, always willing to help those he defines as “his great team, his pineapple.” The veteran pilot, one of the best two-wheeled specialists of the last decade, celebrates his 15th anniversary in the Dakar Rally, returning to the roots of the event. He competes in the Original by Motul category —formerly Malles Motos—, which seeks to recover the essence of the first Dakars in Africa: the participants do not have any assistance during the race, and there are only 30 brave ones who sign up.

“After so many years in the elite, I wanted to return to the essence of rallying. This is and has been my life and I wanted to live a more real Dakar. You don’t enjoy yourself in the elite, you always have pressure from the teams to get results”, reflects the Catalan inside the giant tent that brings together all the participants in the Rub’ al Khali desert. “I am having a calm race, without mistakes. And I hope it stays that way. We are in a good position and nobody counted on it, ”he adds. Pedrero is 21st in the general classification —he is almost four hours behind the leader—, where he competes alongside the rest of the heavyweights in the motorcycle category despite not having the support of any structure.

The organization has made him an ambassador and adviser to the original, but it does not want to place him in a separate classification where he would win by beating. He says that it is not fair, that he runs more than the others because he has worked hard: “The regulations have neither head nor tail.” Pedrero became one of the luxury backpackers of the rally in 2010, when in the midst of the economic crisis he received an offer from one of the big teams after his good debut in the event. He worked for Marc Coma and took two fifth places in 2011 and 2013 almost without breaking a sweat. Then he tried as leader of the ranks, but without a first-class motorcycle he could not get close to his times on top of the dominant KTM, winner of 18 consecutive editions between 2001 and 2019 (the race was not held in 2008 due to the threat of Al- Qaeda)

For the first time without support of any kind in the race -he does need the support of sponsors to travel to Saudi lands-, Pedrero has discovered another, more authentic and difficult face to the race. “It is very hard psychologically. First of all, I have had to change all the routines. When I was in elite the priority was to rest and that’s it. Here is to arrive and get to change the oil. While you eat, it falls and when you finish you put the caps in, fill the tank and get on with the rest of the bike”, he explains. Although they have some facilities included, such as the transport of their suitcases or masseuse service, the pilot admits that he has not even given him time to relax his muscles during the journey.

One of her tricks to have a better time these days has been to bring a good mattress in her suitcase. “I would like the Dakar to always be like this. Having a toolbox like before”, he affirms. He does not miss luxuries like the motorhome to sleep comfortably at night: “I miss my mechanics, my people, but this is my home and I know everyone here. To those who more, but this happened to me before, to my family ”. He is content to reach the finish line in Dammam on January 15 and hold the line after 19 days crossing Saudi Arabia from north to south and from west to east, sleeping in the tent amid dust, mud and piles of sand. “Today, the great teams, the great fortunes, put all the drivers in front. I’m not saying they’re bad, the guys risk a lot, but the essence has been lost, ”he concludes. He has found a way to continue enjoying the rally for what it is, a lover.

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