Xavier De Soultrait is heading into the 2021 edition with new wind in his sails —and a new bike— after an injury forced him out of the race last year.
The ugly scar on his right wrist is nothing more than a bad memory, a memento of the crash that truncated a stellar rise. Two years ago, Xavier De Soultrait crossed the finish line of the Dakar in seventh place overall with a stage win to his name. Then, after starting the last edition with the final podium in his sights, the biker from Moulins crashed out of the race in stage 4.
“I’d spent most of the special in a leading three-man group that also included Brabec”, reminisces the then-Yamaha biker. “We were keeping a great pace. After the last refuelling station, I reckoned it was time to ease up a little… We had 100 k to go, so I let him go, thinking it would also put me in a better starting position for the next stage… Bad idea. I crashed shortly afterwards while riding at under 10 km/h. I tried to break my fall with my hands and ended up cutting my wrist against the rocks. The cut affected 80% of my radial nerve.
The moral of the story is that the best way of staying focused is to keep going full gas, so this time I intend to go flat out from beginning to end.” De Soultrait’s mishap has made him more sensitive to the cold. “My physiotherapist and I worked really hard to fully regain the function of my hand, but I can’t deny that the cold makes me a bit more apprehensive now. I’ll have to wear thicker gloves in the morning.”
If Adrien Van Beveren’s former teammate is so willing to push hard, it is also because he recently took a big weight off his shoulders. The Frenchman’s transfer from Yamaha to Husqvarna was also a way of proving to himself that he could do it. “I’m not the kind of person who likes to shake everything up, very much the opposite. However, this year I realised it could be a great move.
I realised change is not to be feared, but embraced. Although COVID-19 certainly didn’t make things easier, I plucked up my courage, explained the situation to my sponsors and got them to follow me. This new scenario gives me a sense of fulfilment. I feel in my element and have got stronger.” Xavier De Soultrait is having a blast on his 450 Rally.
“This bike is born and bred to take part in rallies. Take it off the shelf, put a couple of stickers on it and presto, it’s ready for the Dakar. It’s robust, fast and powerful on the sand. It really is an awesome bike.” Especially with the Austrian race service keeping a close eye on the Frenchman.
“I won a race in Turkey this year and, although I wasn’t near the top in Andalusia due to a mistake on the second day, my pace was very good. The factory rewarded me with a batch of premium parts.” The biker from Moulins has no other goal in his eighth Dakar than to give it his best… without giving up on his dream of a podium place.
By: official website Dakar