“Cyril Despres, on the rally of Morocco, you completed another phase of your preparation with success. How ready would you say you are?
This year, I decided on a less strenuous racing programme. I took part in the Desafio Litoral, which helped kick-start my preparation, then the rally of Morocco, where I reckon I was at about 80% of my capacities. All the main names were present on the rally, so winning was a real confidence booster, especially since, in my mind, the rally was more like a sprint, whereas I feel I'm most efficient over long distances. Despite that, I managed to win, even if I did endure a day where I lost time, but I never lost my concentration.
Your rival Marc Coma crashed. You suffer this sort of incident even more rarely. Do you think this is due to superior technique in this domain?
Crashes always comes down to the smallest details, you have to be very humble about it. I could have fallen off the bike. In fact, it happens to me in training. However, I know that the work I do is also worth my while. I don't know many riders who shut themselves away like I'm doing at the moment, for a whole week in a sports fitness centre. I look after my body, because it's what wins me races and earns my living. It's true that I've not had any major accidents for a long time, touch wood.
“The gap will have closed once they can
Some of the younger riders' performances are becoming more of a threat. Have you sensed that the gap between them and the duo that you form with Coma is shrinking?
Firstly, I'm delighted for the discipline that there are so many “official” riders, whether with Huqsvarna, Honda, Sherco, Yamaha or even KTM. Since I've been involved in this sport, there's never been so many of us. Some riders have set their sights high, like Barreda, Fish, Gonçalves, Rodrigues, etc., but you can say that the gap will have closed once they can beat us; until then, it doesn't mean a thing. For the moment, they are competitive, but they don't scare me.
Do you think you have found the winning formula for the Dakar?
I think I've found the right tools to win: my preparation, the team structure, the bike and my experience. That said, there are still a lot of special stages to ride before you can even think about winning! Another thing is that I'm getting better year after year. I'm working even harder on the physical aspect and I'm managing to find better form, even though I'm not riding that much. We will carry out a few test sessions with the team until 9th November, but afterwards until the start of the Dakar, I can count on my hand the number of hours I'll spend on the bike. Since the last edition, I've covered more kilometres on a bicycle than on my motorbike”.