It was the rally he hadn't intended to race, but after a second invitation to compete in the Tuareg Rally, Ned Suesse, the only American to finish the 2012 Dakar Rally
, decided to throw his helmet in the ring. After 7 days worth of dust settled in Tunisia, the "If You See Kay" wine-backed rider ended the rally on the podium in second overall!
"After the pressure I put myself under for Dakar, it was an awesome opportunity to just enjoy what I love about rally racing," Ned commented. "Navigation, speed, friendship, desert landscapes, travel - all without the attendant madness of the bigger event."
But the casual spirit of the Tuareg Rally didn't mean the terrain was any less challenging, and Suesse's experience particularly paid off on day 5 when he found himself nearly leading the rally aboard his KTM
"Day 5 was a really long, hard day," Suesse described. "There were three separate timed sections. The first two sections were not very long and I knew I was with the lead pack. The third section was far and away the longest, and I managed to pass everyone physically on the course. There was a really difficult rock section. I got through that very clean; other people really struggled with it. I was like, 'Oh, this is just like Utah!' I passed for the lead before that and then got through that really quickly. When I got into the bivouac I was the first one there by a long time - 20 min or half an hour at least. So I thought, 'I think I might have won that...'
"They made a mistake, though, in the timing," Suesse continued. "They misread the check out from one of the timed sections and added about two hours to my time. It was obvious it was a mistake but it took us two days to get it cleared up. So it was never clear I had won the stage or not, or if I was in the overall lead or not. I think I was briefly in the overall lead of the rally, but I don't think I won the stage."
Finding out he was in contention for the overall win did not shift Suesse's approach to the race. "I realized the worst thing I could do was let that information change my plan at all. I decided to just ride the speed I wanted to ride," Ned recalled, before going on to reference the tragic and untimely death of fellow competitor Wesley Beane of Great Britain on day 2. "The first night, I spent a long time chatting with Wes. I came in after the second day and immediately learned of his death. It really makes you realize how dangerous it is and how important it is to not mistake your capabilities and your intentions. You better just ride exactly how you want to ride."
In the end, Ned remained steady and was thrilled to claim second overall, especially upon finding out that the winner was a former FIM Motocross World Championship racer from Holland. "After watching him ride in the sand, I'm not actually clear how I was as close as I was!" Suesse said with a laugh. "I want to thank everyone who helped me get there. Everything worked absolutely perfectly. The bike was flawless, my gear kept me comfy and safe, and I even got a buzz after the last stage from a well-traveled bottle of 'If You See Kay' wine."
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