With the 2019 Dakar Rally getting ready to kick off, I thought I would write a post about the 2018 Taste of Dakar event in Gold Point, Nevada. I initially got the call from Kellon Walch, who is co-driving with Robby Gordon in this year’s Dakar Rally. I would know since I completed all of their medical exams for 2019 last minute! He asked me if I would be willing to go to this event and talk about my experiences in the Dakar Rally. I did 5 Dakar Rally’s (all in Africa) and have a ton of world experience. Specifically, how to prepare for an event like this as well as the medical and nutrition issues. Kellon put me in touch with Jeremy LeBreton, the organizer of the Taste of Dakar Rally and I agreed to be there.
The 6th Taste of Dakar was hosted in an old gold mining ghost town named Gold Point in Nevada, about six hours north of Los Angeles and three and half hours northwest of Las Vegas. Gold Point is a mining town (even today) and looks like it’s been carefully curated by the rustic mining equipment. Definitely a perfect venue for an event like the Taste of Dakar. Upon arriving, the first thing I thought of was the desert stages in Morocco, with all of the trails, rocks and valleys.
To my pleasant surprise, Scot Harden had also made the trip. And he and I would give a talk together. Scot is a rally champion and the reason team USA ever made a legit run at winning the Dakar Rally back in 2004 with Larry Roseler, Paul Krause and himself. He was able to put together a team sponsored by Red Bull and KTM and asked me to go. The story of how he first got me to commit to going to the Dakar Rally as a Doctor / Masseuse / French Translator is a pretty funny one. At first, I refused for professional reasons, even though I wanted to go and knew it was a chance of a lifetime. Then after numerous calls and discussions, he said that I was the guy he needed on the team. I finally told him that I wanted a brand-new bike, no taxes or anything on my porch after the rally. I thought by telling him this, he would give up and find someone else. At first, he thought it impossible to do this, but then he got together with the past North American CEO Rod Bush and made it happen. No excuses, I was going to Dakar! Thanks to Scot, I did the Rally five times and lived a lifetime of experiences doing it.
Scot gave an amazing talk about how we need to get more people on motorcycles and then we basically benched raced about our Dakar Rally experiences. We talked about injecting hips in an African hotel, escaping a riot on the border of Senegal, wrapping up broken bones so he could continue and finish, and mourning the loss of great riders like Fabrizio Meioni and Andy Caldecott.
The next morning, I gave a talk about how to prepare for something like the Dakar Rally from a nutrition standpoint. I went over the argument of why building up your metabolic flexibility and decreasing the dependence on carbohydrates could improve any adventure ride and increase the overall safety of the experience. Basically, we all know that the risk of mistakes goes up on the rally bike when the brain thinks it needs glucose or sugar and loses mental focus. This brain fade often arises about 3 hours into a ride and these mistakes can be costly. Building metabolic flexibility or Optimizing Fat Metabolism (OFM) is a process and does not happen in one day or even one month. Think of being able to use both glucose and fat for energy at will, this is metabolic flexibility. These are the same techniques I use to help current Dakar Rally racers Ricky Brabec, Kellon Walch, Quinn Cody, Chris Blais and many others.
The plan is for me to be at the 7th Taste of Dakar and hopefully expand on the multiple facets of how to prepare for a rally or adventure ride. I wrote a book on the subject with Scot Harden that is from 2007 called Chasing Dakar. There are many things I would change in the book especially regarding nutrition, but it is a good reference and contains many epic photos of the Dakar Rally when it was in Africa.
I can tell you that Jeremy puts on a great event and this is very close to what you would experience in the Dakar Rally for 3 days. My first Dakar Rally was 3 weeks! Back at camp, everyone comes back smiling. Everyone pushes themselves to their limits, and ride amazing terrain. The greatest thing is just hearing everyone’s stories and experiences. This is what the Taste of Dakar is really about.