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Dakar 2009: A more physically demanding Dakar in 2009.

Thirty years ago one of the last great adventures that would last to the new millenium began. When Thierry Sabine created the Paris Dakar one of the toughest races on the planet was born, a race that takes the riders and bikes to their absolute limits and which has been demanding the utmost from the men, women and machines who have dared to participate over the last thirty years. Since then, riders like Nani Roma, Stéphane Peterhansel and Marc Coma, have ridden over thousands of kilometres; through deserts, mountains, sand, dust, rivers, mud and all sorts of obstacles between Paris, Granada, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Dakar, the capital of Senegal with its magical Pink Lake.

After an absence of one year the race will take place on another continent, it will leave Africa behind for the first ever time in its history to cross the Atlantic and be reborn in Argentina and Chile. Nevertheless, the Dakar is still the Dakar, and the demands and toughness of this type of extreme race will of course be present at the beginning of 2009. Almost 10 000 kilometres across the Argentinian Pampas, Patagonia, the Atacama desert and the Andes, which once again means that a good physical preparation ís essential to have any chance of finishing the race. The special guest at this year`s editioón will be the high altitude, with stages in the Andes that reach over 3 000 metres, bringing new aspects to a race that is in itself more than unpredictable.

To undertake this challenge the Repsol riders have been preparing for the race over the last few months, and not only preparing their motorbikes, so that they are in pefect physical conditions to tackle the race. The Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart even included two physical preparation stages in France- in Britanny and in the Jura mountains together with another on the Swiss border - where the team members had sessions of cyclng, sailing, jogging and cross-country skiing, as well as workouts in the gym with stretching exercises and weight-lifting to strengthen their muscles in the zones that receive the most violent blows when riding at high speed on irregular terrain as well as in jumps. At the same time work was done on the neck, the back and the lumbar area.

The work was basically aerobic aimed at improving the stamina for the long tough stages that are always in the Dakar, a preparation which in the case of the Team Repsol KTM riders can be done on the motorbike itself, as the physical demands put on them are always more demanding. Long days to practice navigation and to learn to read the roadbook well; these sesions can reach five hours on the bike or can be done in shorter sessions - one or two hours - on difficult cross or enduro type circuits that give Coma, Viladoms and Farrés a chance to get into good physical shape.

However, as the start of the race gets closer it is wise to take precautions and so the riders spend less time riding and they find alternatives that are less dangerous, such as mountain or road bikes, trial riding, because an injury at this time could mean that a rider is ruled out of the race. The important thing during the physical preparation is to do all the training continually over time, and not leave any gaps without any physical work or with lower levels of exercise but at the same time it is important not to increase the work load too much to try and make up for lost time. The target being to get the body used to progressive but continuous effort.

Taking into account the conditions that are going to be found in the South-American Dakar, all the riders are being prepared in a special way for the stages that take place at high altitude because, although nobody thinks that this will be a decisive factor, it is a good idea not to leave any loose ends and the team`s experience demands that any situation should be planned for. Problems associated with high altitudes come at over 3 000 metres as hypoxia can occur, that is to say a serious lack of oxygen in the body. This happens because at high altitude because the atmospheric pressure is much lower and it becomes difficult for oxygen to transfer from the lungs to the bloodstream. Owing to this phenomenon it is necessary to breathe more often and a higher pulse rate is required to transport the same amount of oxygen.

There are different ways of getting used to this. Marc Coma, for example, slept in a hypoxic chamber similar to a tent that he puts in his bed, where the oxygen concentration in the air is similar to that at high altitudes. Jordi Viladoms preferred to use a mask that supplies air with a regulated level of oxygen. Every morning Viladoms spends an hour breathing through the mask for periods of five minutes. Nani Roma on the other hand opted to use a more traditional method and spent several days training in both the Sierra Nevada and in France sleeping at high altitude.

These different options bring the same result though: the body is stimulated to adapt to the conditions at high altitude so that it can oxygenate the muscles adequately during periods of extreme effort, independently of the particular circumstances.

With just one week to go before the start of the race the Repsol riders have lowered the intensity of their training since it is important to assimilate well all the work that they have done. They will do exercises to maintain their great physical shape but the most important work has already been done and now it is their turn to rest a little and to accumulate as much strength as possible. These two weeks will be a time when they eat well and enjoy some time with their families, and to gain as much strength and morale as possible for the big challenge facing them on 3rd January in Buenos Aires.

2008/12/30 | 23:30 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Repsol

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