Cody leaves the starting area during the opening ceremonies for this year's Dakar.
1000 on more than one occasion.
"It's really brutal," Cody said just a week or so removed from the Dakar Rally. "The riding itself is really difficult, but the schedule they put you on... the way they design the layout of the race -it's kind of designed to hurt you. Start times in the morning on most days are 4:20, 4:30 in the morning. You're up at 3:30 and you've already done almost 200 miles before the sun even comes up and you haven't even made it to the special [test] yet. There are a lot of days like that and it's really hard to sleep in the bivouac with all the noise, the generators, with guys working on their cars and stuff. You're just in a tent, on a little pad. It really takes a lot of getting used to, to figuring out a system to deal with all your stuff, your camelback, your roadbook. Normally, we are used to getting done with a race and that's it -you're done. But all of sudden you have to get ready for the next day. There's no time to just relax."
Although the racing is fierce and the terrain difficult, it's the lack of sleep that takes the most getting used to, Cody says.
"It's taxing on you. The sleep deprivation, I think, is the biggest thing. Your body gets used to operating at this deficit. You are getting three, four hours a night of sleep. It's the mental part. You can't really train for it. You have to make sure you are making good decisions, good roadbook decisions, good decisions with the bike. it's hard to do on limited sleep."
So how does the little 13-day jaunt through South America compare to the legendary Baja 1000? For starters, it's not just a case of pre-running and memorizing most of the course. There's no way to do that in the Dakar -because every day brings a new route. A course you've never seen before.
"The riding. some of it is pretty difficult, but I think it's just the length of everything that gets to you," Cody said. "You are on the bike for so long. You're doing an average of 450 miles a day so you're on the bike for a long time and it just wears you down. There's some really difficult stuff, like in the sand dunes. The navigation, especially since it was my first time, it really takes a lot out of you to have to look down [at the roadbook] and make sure that you're not going to crash. Sometimes you'll look down and
hit a rock or something, get all squirrely and almost eat it. A lot of it is mental. The riding... it's smoother than Baja because there are no whoops or anything like that. But you are also on this huge bike with all this fuel. It's hard to compare it to Baja, I guess."
This year's race was won by three-time Dakar winner Marc Coma, the Spaniard beating fellow KTM factory star Cyril De-spres, himself a multi-time winner of the event. The two are legends, but we've all seen legends who fail to impress upon closer inspection. Not so for these two, Cody says. They are legends for a reason.
"I was really impressed with their speed," Cody admits. "I went over there thinking, 'Okay, these guys are fast, but if there's not a lot of navigation I should be able to run their pace.' I was blown away by how fast they go. The first two or three days it was basically like racing fire roads and the risks that those guys were taking were incredible. They were hanging it out. I didn't come in prepared to take huge risks. I was there to learn and figure it out, so I was blown away by their speed - especially those first few days."
Cody spent a bit of time with the top men of the rally raids. And he even learned that even the best can't always be counted on more than a good roadbook, and good GPS.
"There were a few times I got to ride with those guys. The massstart day. it wasn't hard to stay with them in the desert, but we all got lost and it was a big mess. I definitely learned that even though they are the best guys in the world, never just follow 'em. They make mistakes too."
Cody's race wasn't without some drama and after finishing the race in Buenos Aires he discovered he'd actually been injured along the way
"On the fifth stage, I crashed hard and I broke my thumb - the end of my thumb," he said. "I broke it clear through. It was on this hard-packed, almost like a dry lake material, and I came into this corner a little too fast and slid and either hit a rock or it caught - and it highsided me. I was fine everywhere else, but my thumb must have just jammed into the ground. The navigation system was all bent and the bars were totally bent. The bike is so heavy, even the slightest tip-over can bend the bars."
You don't go 13 days and all those miles without crashing, but Cody was guarded in the chances he took - thus the mishaps were mostly minor.
"I tried to keep it under control, but you always have those moments when you hit a rock in the silt or something and I can remember a couple of times where I scared myself, but for the most part I tried to keep it pretty conservative," he said. "I knew I had to get up the next day and do it all again so I wasn't really taking risks like I would in say Baja or something."
Cody wants to go back because he knows he will start day one with the experience he gained from the 13 stages this year. He won't have it all figured out like a Coma or a Despres, but he'll be up to speed from day one in next year's Dakar. If he can somehow make it happen.
"I really want to go back and start doing more rallies and stuff," Cody said. "We just have to figure out if we can get a budget together and build a really competitive bike.
"For me, I was almost on overload for the first week. There was so much stuff going on and it's really hard to explain, but there's two or three hours a night of getting your roadbook together. You have to make sure your gear is ready for the next day. all these little details. So the first week
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