Originally Posted by neduro
Yes, agree. There's also the point that the more technical the terrain gets, the bigger the difference in time between the top pros and the back of the field.
To me, what would be ideal is adding ~2 hours to many special stages thru the event for the top riders. This will add something like ~4 hours for many midpackers, however, I would hope there is a corresponding shortening of liaison, so that the time into bivouac isn't changed by as much as the stage is lengthened. I think this would also change strategy for the top riders to some extent, by not allowing them to push themselves or their machines quite as hard because of the additional ~20-30 hours of racing over 2 weeks.
But it can't happen, not without starting before dawn while respecting French dinner hour. They are already trying to maximize that gap and doing a pretty good job of it.
Good points Ned
Indeed that would be an excellent solution, shorten the liaisons and lengthen the specials. Doable? Indeed and one that would, I believe, help retain the "spirit" that is slowly changing (I don't dare say diminishing).
IMHO the bivouacs need to move away from the cities. It should become mandatory for each competitor to sleep in the bivouac, the whole hotel thing just rubs me the wrong way and widens the gap between pro's and amateurs. Place the bivouacs out in the sand, easy way to remove the RV's.
On the surface it seems quite easy to implement a few subtle changes that would help keep the Dakar spirit alive.
Also as you mentioned some armchair quarterbacks (of which I am one) post things about the race being too easy, mostly based on attrition rate. You mentioned better machines (one third of the field on 450 factory built KTM's) and better riders. One other contributing factor, I believe, is that even the back of the pack guys are training and preparing like heck for the race. It wasn't too long ago that the Dakar was on a bucket list for adventurers, akin to climbing Mt Everest with guides assistance. Those days seem to be over to an extent. Not only the resume needed to be accepted (remember it wasn't too long ago the race wasn't getting enough riders to fill all of the available starting spots) but now folks train specifically for an entire year or more, fitness and bike skills.
Change...hard to accept...