“I may not always be the fastest rider, but I am the most consistent – I know how to win the Dakar Rally.”
Prior to the start of this year’s rally, Cyril Despres was pretty honest in telling the world that he wasn’t out to win every stage of the Dakar Rally. Instead, he was there to win it outright. Although billed as the pre-race favourite, he knew that he wouldn’t be fast enough to win all 14 stages. But he did know he could be the most consistent rider to take home the trophy.
For Cyril, he had a plan and it was one he was going to stick to.
With everybody eager to set the benchmark during the opening couple of stages, Despres was simply happy enough to hang back and let them at it. Crashes, navigational errors and mechanical misfortunes soon followed his rival’s daily triumphs. Their consistency just didn’t add up.
Even when gearbox trouble almost knocked him out of contention, the tactical Frenchman kept his nerve. In the midst of a marathon stage, while lacking outside assistance and when the nerves of others were shot – Despres kept his cool. Swapping his engine with that of fellow competitor Marek Dabrowski, he stayed in the race. The goal of winning was still alive.
The very next day he trusted his own instincts and avoided the navigational blunders of his rivals. On the longest stage of the rally, Cordoba, Despres then put himself firmly back into the driving seat and finally the road to Santiago was clear.
Riding onto the winner’s podium he etched his name deeper into the history books of Dakar. Claiming his fifth win he equalled that achieved by Cyril Neveu and moved one step closer to matching Stephane Peterhansel’s tally.
But to the Frenchman this victory will mean much more than setting new records. Coming in the most difficult of circumstances, Despres had to draw upon his wealth of rally experience to win. It was his strength, confidence, ability, desire and an unrelenting refusal to admit defeat ensured that Cyril Despres was crowned the 2013 Dakar Rally Champion.
And for that alone, it’s a result for which he can be most proud…