Mirjam Pol's 2020 Dakar
January 17th 2020: Stage 12
The last stage of the 2020 Dakar is over! The first ever Dakar held in Saudi Arabia is won by Ricky Brabec on the Honda. Since day 3 he was the leader of the general ranking. A good performance and we congratulate him win this win!
Also for our Mirjam the Dakar is (finally) over. The first Saudi Arabian Dakar was a really tough one in many ways. Physically Mirjam had to process some big hits. A teared muscle in her upper right leg and also a couple of falls. Mentally she had to cope with the loss of her former teammate Paulo Gonçalves in stage 7. A couple of days later she helped Edwin Straver with his hard and extremely unlucky fall. Straver was transported by helicopter to the hospital in Riyadh. His situation hasn’t changed ever since and he is still in critical condition.
Partly by these events Mirjam is having difficulties being enthusiastic about her performance in this year’s Dakar. This shows that she’s human but lacks appreciation to her as being a athlete. That’s why we still want to mention her performances:
Mirjam came in as 66th and takes 41st place in the general ranking. She is second in the women’s ranking and also second best Dutch rider. With finishing this Dakar, Mirjam becomes the first ever woman and Dutch competitor that has managed to finish the Dakar in three different continents: Africa, South America and Asia (Saudi Arabia).
January 16th 2020: Stage 11
After the really tough stage of yesterday today was no different really. This stage is the second longest stage of the 2020 Dakar and has a lot of dunes. Quintanilla pushed hard to make up time on Ricky Brabec. Brabec took it easy today and took no more risk than needed and came in 10th. Quintanilla managed to make up half the time he was behind Brabec. It’s going to be an exciting last stage of the 2020 Dakar!
Mirjam started stage 11 still being battered from the previous stage. With a torn muscle in her upper left leg and a bruised upper right leg she began her second-to-last stage of the Dakar. How her stage went is totally irrelevant to the crash of Edwin Straver, to who Mirjam provided first aid. Straver went down with a relatively slow speed of 50 km/h, but landed very unfortunately. He broke one of his upper cervical vertebrae and had to be resuscitated. After being resuscitated, Straver was transported by helicopter to Riyadh’s hospital. Mirjam started 4,5 minutes behind Straver and was one of the first arriving on the scene and stayed with him for a long time. The organisation absolved the ‘lost time’ of 2,5 hours which Mirjam spent with Edwin.
In the end Mirjam doesn't care about her time: “At this moment everything that has to do with the Dakar isn’t important anymore. The only important thing is Edwin who is fighting for his life right now”. To respect Edwin and his family and Mirjam, we would like to leave it at this.
As it looks right now Mirjam will continue to ride the last stage of the Dakar.
1 Ricky Brabec | Honda | 38h33m28s
2 Pablo Quintanilla | Husqvarna | +13m56s
3 Toby Price | KTM | +22m34s
41 Mirjam Pol | Husqvarna | +12u57m28s
Update Stage 10
We weren’t expecting to hear from Mirjam Pol before the start of stage 11, but we did! She always starts conversations with a little joke followed by a more serious topic. This time is no different…
As you could read in the stage 10 report of yesterday, Mirjam had an unlucky moment during the stage, with painful upper legs as the result. The injury turned out to be a muscle tear in her upper leg.
Mirjam: “Today was a weird day actually. A heavy sand storm and treacherous dunes. We had a high speed horizontal part, followed by a dune which unexpectedly stopped inclining. I can’t explain this very well, but it comes down to the fact that my concentration lagged and then it went all ‘downhill’.
Mirjam continues: “I can’t remember that well what happened exactly, but probably I was looking at my roadbook instead of right in front of me which is what I should have done. I had to brake hard, but I immediately felt that I wasn’t going to make it by braking. So I accelerated and jumped off of the dune, but I couldn’t catch my fall. I bumped my head on my Sentinel and with all my muscles tightened in my legs they got smacked into the sides of my bike!” She was dizzy but drank some water and joined a group of riders passing by. She felt right away that there’s something not right with her upper legs.
After arriving into the bivouac she rode straight to the Medics to get a massage. They discussed Mirjam’s situation with the doctor who decided to make an ultrasound. Her right upper leg is heavily bruised and painful. Her left upper leg shows a muscle tear. Mirjam expects that she’s going to feel it during stage 11, which has a lot of dunes and she will have to be standing up on the bike a lot. It’s going to be painful, but she hopes it can be done with the painkillers the doctor gave her. Together with the other female competitors of the Dakar (Laia Sanz, Kirsten Landman, Sara Garcia en Taye Perry) she spent the evening talking about their experiences in this year’s rally. Turns out to be a pretty fierce Dakar so far, in many ways...
January 15th 2020: Stage 10
Today was stage 10. The planning for today was the first marathon stage, consisting of two parts with a halfway point in the middle. The organisation decided to suspend the stage at halfway point, due to increasingly bad weather. The safety of the riders was at stake if they would continue the stage. A good decision by the organization, considering the dangerous accidents that happened before the suspension. In the end the organization decided to use the times the riders set when entering the halfway point as finishing times. This is a positive outcome for Joan Barreda, whom entered the halfway point first and grabbed his first win in the 2020 Dakar. The leader in the general ranking, Ricky Brabec came in second and Benavides came in third. The stage win of Barreda kicks title favorite Toby Price out of the top 3 in the general ranking.
Before entering the marathon bivouac Mirjam Pol could answer some questions. She came in 33rd, but it wasn’t really her day: “I’m extremely happy that the second part of this stage is suspended. In the fourth kilometer of this stage I saw a helicopter next to a rider who fell off. It looked like a massive crash. Around the 120th kilometer I saw another crash and around the 118th kilometer I crashed as well. It was an unlucky one and my lip is smashed and so is the inside of my mouth, but the really bad parts are my legs, which do hurt a lot. The bike’s fine, but I need to go to the organization to have my broken Sentinel fixed, which I probably hit.”
Everything shows that Mirjam is done with it for today. She rode into the bivouac to go to the Medics to get checked and to get some rest after. A good result doesn’t always mean happiness at the finish line...
Anyway, we’re looking forward to stage 11! We’re hoping that Mirjam can recharge herself for tomorrow!
1 Ricky Brabec | Honda | 34h12m18s
2 Pablo Quintanilla | Husqvarna | +25m44s
3 Joan Barreda | Honda | +27m09s
42 Mirjam Pol | Husqvarna | +11u44m53s
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January 14th 2020: Stage 9
The riders left the dunes behind them and are going towards the stages with rocks, a lot of rocks. An exhausting stage for the riders, definitely looking at the distance they need to cover. Including the route from and to the stage it’s almost 900 kilometers to Haradh. Riding focussed and carefully were the keywords for this stage!
The winner of stage 9 succeeded to apply this method to his race: Pablo Quintanilla came in at first place, 2 minutes ahead of Toby Price. The Chilean makes up some time on the leader of the Dakar, Ricky Brabec. Although the American still has a lead of 20 minutes.
Mirjam did well today, coming in 45th! Thanks to riding consistent, she’s still climbing up in the rankings. Despite this good performance, she isn’t quite satisfied: “It was a long day, which took a lot of effort. The first part of the stage was tough terrain and physically hard, but they warned us for that. It was ‘Moroccan Style’ (referring back to her Dakar in Africa). It was hard to get in the right mood, which took so much effort.”
In stage 9, Mirjam did something that is quite rare for her. She exceeded the speed limit in a speedzone! In the 20 kilometer long zone the speed limit was 90km/h. But after this section came another speedzone, where 50km/h was allowed. She didn’t notice and rode to fast, with a one minute penalty as the consequence. Luckily the penalty doesn’t affect her position at the start of stage 10, which is also going be a pretty long stage. With any long stage, it’s better to start more towards the front of the pack.
Stage 10 is a special stage and ends in the Marathon Bivouac. For Mirjm this means that she won’t have any assistance from her team and mechanics in the night between stage 10 and 11. The only things she will get from the organisation is a sleeping mat and a tent. “The other stuff I need like a sleeping bag, clothes and my toiletries, will be transported by the organisation.”. Mirjam doesn’t even know where the camp is: “I think we’re really going to a bivouac in the middle of the desert…”
Because Mirjam will be all by herself in the Marathon Bivouac, we think we won’t be able to get in touch with her about the stage... But we’ll see!
1 Ricky Brabec | Honda | 31h59m29s
2 Pablo Quintanilla | Husqvarna | +20m53s
3 Toby Price | KTM | +26m43s
54 Mirjam Pol | Husqvarna | +11u10m15s
January 13th 2020: Stage 8
The loop from Wadi Al-Dawasir to Wadi Al-Dawasir was planned for today’s stage. Due to the tragic accident of Paulo, the organisation decided to cancel stage 8. This gives the riders to mourn for their colleague and friend and not think about the Dakar for a moment.
January 12th 2020: Stage 7
Mirjam finished 42nd, a great performance, but it is being overshadowed by the loss of Paulo Gonçalves. Today's stage is cancelled due this tragedy. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Before hearing the awful news about Paulo, Mirjam had an excellent day. The kilometers flew by during the high pace stage until she saw a helicopter standing in the sand with a few other riders around it and one rider laying on the ground. “I was riding in the dust of the riders in front of me and saw on my roadbook that I was approaching a dangerous situation. I hadn’t much time to analyse the situation, but I saw it didn’t look good; A rider was laying on the ground with no one taking care of him. That’s never a good sign. A rider always gets medical care after an accident and now he didn’t…
“I knew this isn’t good, but I didn’t want it to get in my head. However I did get this uneasy feeling and the ‘worst case scenario’ thoughts kept spinning in my head. But the stage went on and I needed to keep my head straight.” says Mirjam.
When she arrived at the bivouac, her team manager received Mirjam and their she got the news that the rider she saw was Paulo. Mirjam and Paulo were teammates back in 2007 and 2008 and she has good memories of him. “Such a nice guy, full of energy and always saying hello to everyone.”. Mirjam and her team manager talked and were just staring, in an attempt to process the devastating news.
Mirjam: “We riders know that our sport is full of risks. You know it always can happen, but you think ‘this won’t be happen to me’. Paulo died with his boots on, doing what he liked the most, riding his bike.”
January 11th 2020: Rest day
The riders can 'relax' today, because it's rest day. Refueling their energy levels and preparing themselves and their bikes for part 2 of the 2020 Dakar!
January 10th: Stage 6
Today is the last stage before rest day and it was cold, very cold before the start. Especially for the riders, who were waiting to kick off the longest stage until now in the 2020 Dakar. Of the riders at the top of the leaderboards it was Ricky Brabec who won the stage by taking advantage of the unfortunate circumstances of the other two top riders. Toby Price had to stop for a while just before the finish flag and lost 16 minutes on Brabec. Kevin Benavides, who was third in the rankings, had to be towed to the bivouac due to a broken engine. It becomes clear again that the Dakar rally is unpredictable. How the rally goes depends on so many variables like preparation, quality and especially luck.
Looking at Mirjam Pol, we can say that there’s nothing wrong with her preparation. Where others didn’t know what to do to handle the cold, Mirjam was relaxed: “Some riders went to sit in a car or they were trying heavily to keep themselves warm, they didn’t know what to do out of misery. I was well prepared and you know what they say: The first blow is half the battle!”
Mirjam felt great during this stage. “This is my kind of stage. I had an amazing ride and enjoyed it a lot. The first part of the stage was high speed and then came the dunes. At the first two dunes, I rode into them instead of over them.. Quite bizarre. I’m understanding them better and better and I’m loving the dunes. It flattered me, when a pro rider gave me a compliment about how I ‘flow’ around the dunes.” says Mirjam.
When Mirjam heard she finished 46th, she reacted with enthusiasm: “Oh wow, that’s good! I didn’t expect such a nice result, definitely not in the first week of this Dakar. I’m happy with this result and it makes me go into rest day with a good feeling.”
Her good performance in stage 6 resulted in a nice spot in the general rankings: 54th, which is also her number in this Dakar. According to Mirjam it’s important to have a good feeling before going into the rest day, especially looking back to previous days that were extremely tough and long. “Without a rest day it would turn out fine too.”, joked Mirjam. “But in the end it’s always nice to take a day off and with a great perspective for the next stage. We’re definitely looking forward to it!”
1 Ricky Brabec | Honda | 23h43m47s
2 Pablo Quintanilla | Husqvarna | 20m56s
3 Toby Price | KTM | 25m39s
54 Mirjam Pol | Husqvarna | 9u30m18s
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January 9th: Stage 5
The fifth stage of the Dakar was almost completely ridden on loose sand and became a true battlefield. A lot of riders fell of their bikes, some were able to keep going but many others had to stop their Dakar adventures. One of those riders was Sam Sunderland, who had an accident just before the 200 km mark and broke his shoulder blade and had multiple bruises. Toby Price won this stage and came closer to the leader of the in the general rankings Ricky Brabec.
The stage was tough for everybody and took its toll, but the only thing Mirjam Pol ‘complained’ about is her fatigue. She came in as 59th and was completely worn-out: “Imagine preparing your roadbook now after a stage like this, that would be almost impossible. After a day like this I’m exhausted. The terrain is really tough and asks a lot of my body. I’m happy that I can go to the Medics everyday and let them loosen up my muscles, because my body (and bike) has a lot to endure.” says Mirjam.
“The scenery and terrain are beautiful but I can’t enjoy it, because I’m constantly trying to avoid rocks to minimize the damage. I know that’s Dakar, but my body doesn’t seem to want to understand that this is the toughest rally there is. Today was all about strength, on this ground it’s hard to keep your lines and you have to adjust and jump constantly. Also the dunes here are so unpredictable, unlike those in South America where you know that it’s going down on the other side. Here they can be steep or flat, you just don’t know, just like today: after the climb on the dune, the other side was flat and causing me to bump into my Sentinel and broke off. Which meant I couldn't receive warning signals anymore when a professional rider wanted to overtake me. It caused me to ride nervously… But in the end, I’m still here and I’m not easy to put down, I’m just going on!”, jokes Mirjam.
Mirjam is one of the few Dutchies left in the Dakar. Everyday riders fall out and the list of participants is becoming shorter and shorter. It shows that riders need to be ride carefully on the treacherous landscapes of the Middle East. Especially tomorrow which will be a long day with a high pace stage!
1 Ricky Brabec | Honda | 19h07m19s
2 Toby Price | KTM | 2m00s
3 Kevin Benavides | Honda | 8m31s
61 Mirjam Pol | Husqvarna | 27u20m40s
January 8th: Stage 4
Beforehand, the fourth stage of the 2020 Dakar was labelled as a really tough one. The stage starts in Neon and will finish in Al-’Ula, around 700 kilometers away. It was freezing cold in the early morning right before the start, with riders trying to keep themselves warm. The winner of the previous stage Ricky Brabec had the right to kick off this stage. A stage full of rocks that causes a lot of flat tyres. The winner of today: Jose Florimo of Chile, who entered the top 3 in the general ranking with this win!
Mirjam Pol started on position 96, due the unfortunate third stage. Starting in this position is annoying. But with good use of her experience, down to earth vision and her clever way of riding she had good faith in a positive outcome.
Mirjam prepared herself for the cold by putting on almost every piece of clothing that she could find. “I wasn’t feeling cold, which was great so I could start the stage feeling well. Because I started in the back of the field, I had to overtake a lot of riders in front of me. The wind did help me big time! I didn’t take that many risks and I could keep a fast and steady pace. Finally a stage where everything falls into place!” Also her paying attention in the briefings payed off. “The ground between kilometers 240 and 290 was very treacherous. I wanted to overtake someone but remembered the briefing, so I didn’t. I was going with the flow of the guy in front of me, he was navigating for me and I could profit from that!”, said Mirjam, laughing.
Now Mirjam is riding in between riders who are equal to her in pace, so a good result couldn't stay out. In the end Mirjam came in 51st. An tremendous performance, considering she started 96th!
1 Ricky Brabec | Honda | 15h06m43s
2 Kevin Benavides | Honda | 2m30s
3 Jose Florimo | KTM | 8m31s
64 Mirjam Pol | Husqvarna | 21u56m22s
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January 7th: Stage 3
It promised to be a stage with a lot of different circumstances with rocks, sand and canyons. The start, and also the finish, will be the city of Neom. Nevertheless the ‘loop’ was around 500 kilometers long.
The riders at the top of the standings keep swapping positions and the predicted winners had a bit of a let down. But still Brabec took the victory of stage 3. The winner of the second stage of the Dakar, Branch, fell from his bike but still managed to bring it back to the bivouac.
Now on to Mirjam: She had a good run and was making up time she lost in the previous stages. Just before the second fuel stop, she saw her teammate struggling with his bike; technical problems. Something that Mirjan can’t help him with, so she decides to give him her satellite telephone. Just an easy task would you think, but to get the phone she had to ‘undress’ half of her bike. She lost a lot of time, and was disappointed when she find out her teammate didn’t finish and it was all for nothing...
These situations caused an interruption of her focus. She lost more and more time, partly by looking for waypoints and riding past exits she had to take. To top it all off she tipped over her bike when the rider in front of her fell of his bike. She came back up again when a rally car bumped into her bike causing her to fall over again. After that another rally car drove straight over her wheel… Mirjam: “Well, I’m done with this!”
After blowing off some steam in the bivouac, she could take a shower, eat and drink something and prepare her roadbook for the fourth stage. Then she heard the news of her teammate Martien Jimmink who had to retire due to medical reasons. “And then you see everything in perspective again…”
1 Ricky Brabec | Honda | 10h39m04s
2 Kevin Benavides | Honda | 4m43s
3 Matthias Walkner | KTM | 6m02s
75 Mirjam Pol | Husqvarna | 16u04m50s
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January 6th: Stage 2
Around 6:00 a.m. (UTC/GMT 1) the riders started their second stage of the Dakar. The roadbooks were handed out just before they took off, so little time to prepare the route… Even Toby Price was struggling with this new form of riding, who lost a lot of time just after the start. The winner of today: Ross Branch. Branch rode a perfect stage and winning this stage makes him the third African ever to win a stage in the Dakar rally. A great performance from the Botswanan, looking at the amount of crashes that happened in this stage.
Also Mirjam didn’t come out of the battle unscathed. She fell and broke her fall with her arms with a hurting wrist as the consequence. With a good massage, she thinks, it will be fine.
Despite her fall, the second stage of the Dakar was a lot prettier and offered a lot more variety than the first one. Mirjam about this stage: Another serious stage in the Dakar. I rode all day in the dust, what makes riding very dangerous. Some riders rode so fast that I was thinking: “But how? What do they see that I don’t?” But in the end I was riding in their dust. What goes around comes around, because in the end I was seeing them dropping like flies in the ditches.
But in the end Mirjam wasn’t quite happy about her performance, blaming it on the dust. But she’s still positive: “My bike feels better than before, which was great! But that doesn't mean that I’m going to push my limits riding through the dust. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s only day 2…” Mirjam finished 77th in stage 2 and is 71th overall.
Mirjam isn’t a big fan of the ready-to-use roadbooks yet, which all riders got just before the start of the second stage. Although it does save time which she can then use to rest instead. Mirjam about these type of roadbooks: “The biggest disadvantage are the colors. On the piste I can’t set blue and black apart and that’s confusing. Also I’ve had some notes on the roadbook that I need to focus on. All and all it isn’t the easiest thing, but it saves a lot of time. But yeah, maybe I just need to get used to it.” Day 2 is over, looking forward to day 3!
1 Sam Sunderland | KTM | 7h05m22s
2 Pablo Quintanilla | Husqvarna| 1m18s
3 Kevin Benavides | Honda | 1m32s
71 Mirjam Pol | Husqvarna | 3u24m43s
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January 5th: The start of Dakar 2020
The 8th Dakar rally for Mirjam is about to begin. She will start the first stage as 51st motorcycle rider. After finishing all the obligations she can start fresh and with full focus on the reason she's here: rallying!
Mirjam leaves the camp early at around 5:00 a.m. The route to the start isn’t easy and three hours later Mirjam can finally start her first stage of the Dakar.
The first stage
“Well, gee! The first 800 meters didn’t go according to plans. The route to the start is now on GPS, which wasn’t the case in previous years. And when you leave the camp you have to be at the start of the stage at a certain time. It was new, but in the end it was all good.” said Mirjam.
The first 319 kilometers of the first stage are done. Toby Price came in first with a margin of 2.05 minutes on the second rider Ricky Brabec. By finishing first Price confirms his role as favorite. His time is under review though, because he may have exceeded the speed limit in a certain area. We’ll be certainly hearing the outcome of this soon. Sadly the first retirement of this Dakar is already a fct: The Frenchmen Willy Jobard fell of his bike within 13 kilometers of the start and had to give up after with a dislocated shoulder.
Fortunately Mirjam did come out of the battle unscathed and finished as the second Dutch participant. After finishing Mirjam had to ride another 240 kilometers to the bivouac. Once arrived in the camp, she looked back at the first stage of her Dakar: “The first stage was immediately a serious one, full of rocks laying right underneath the sand. Rocks just aren’t my thing. Round, square, pointy, it doesn’t matter. They’re still rocks and they’re all annoying! Luckily there were also some superfast ‘full throttle’ straights! So a bit of both!”
The ready-to-use roadbooks for the second stage, ensure that Mirjam can relax, shower and eat after arriving at the bivouac and get a good night’s sleep to be ready for the next day!
1 Toby Price | KTM | 3h19m33s
2 Ricky Brabec | Honda | 2m05s
3 Matthias Walkner | KTM | 2m40s
70 Mirjam Pol | Husqvarna | 1u29m26s
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January 4th: Obligations...
A whole day of obligations like the riders briefing in the morning and the introduction of the riders to the audience on the podium in Jeddah where the riders will start tomorrow.
January 3rd: Inspection
Today is all about inspection. The day doesn’t start without any effort: After breakfast Mirjam isn’t feeling that well and the sickness didn’t pass by. But in the end the most important thing was that the bike came through inspection and it did! The bike is now in parc fermé, waiting to be ridden.
2020, January 2nd: Testing
The first meters in Saudi Arabia will be covered today! Mirjam will be testing her bike in the sand dunes and figuring out if the bike does what it’s supposed to do. “The sand dunes are very difficult. They’re not as high as in South America, but the sand is really deep. I managed to get stuck in them and that says enough. My handlebars didn’t do anything I wanted them to do, so I’m happy we did get some time to test the bike, because not everything on the bike was like I wanted it to be. I even got the chance to ride all by myself, so that was nice. I need that to give me a positive feeling and that is what I have at the moment!” said Mirjam.
2019, December 31st: Mirjam is on her way to the Middle East!
After months of preparation Mirjam Pol’s Dakar could finally start on December 31st. On this day she flew to Saudi Arabia with her team members. Participating in this Dakar on this continent, makes her the only Dutchwoman and female competitor ever to ride the Dakar rally on all continents the Dakar ever took place: Africa, South America and the Middle East.