Aravind: 'My fitness definitely has to improve'

K.P. Aravind from Mangaluru broke his left hand on the opening day before, in Stage 3, suffering another fall that ended his debut race at the Dakar rally.

TVS Sherco rider K.P. Aravind at the Dakar rally.   -  Sreedutta V. Chidananda

K.P. Aravind's debut at the Dakar rally did not, it is fair to say, end in celebration. The 32-year-old from Mangaluru broke his left hand on the opening day before, in Stage 3, suffering another fall that ended his race.

“It was definitely an overwhelming experience; a lot of learning for me,” said Aravind, who returned home this week. “I suffered the first fall in the prologue. I went hot into a corner; a slower rider came in my way. I braked hard and fell and hurt my wrist.”

A video of the crash is available on the internet; it does not make for pleasant viewing. Besides two soft bone injuries, that fall also aggravated an old wrist fracture Aravind had endured.

“I had broken my wrist eight years ago. Surgery hadn't been an option then, so the bone was still not intact. I have broken my wrist so many times. It's an occupational hazard,” he laughed.

On day two, Aravind rode in pain, with his wrist taped up. In the next stage, however, through a tricky, technical section with rocks and vegetation, his Dakar journey came to an end.

“There were loose rocks and plants. I hit one rock on the wrong side and fell. I was not going very fast; it was a slow, technical section. But I fell on some rocks, and hurt my shoulder,” he said.

There is no doubting Aravind's ability, with his success in supercross and rallying and his 13 national titles. He trained in Morocco and France ahead of his trip to South America.

The Dakar, though, is unlike many other events. “It's different in its magnitude,” Aravind said. “The transport is 400 km and the stage is 500 km. The stages are much bigger. That way it's different. Length-wise and terrain-wise it's different. So if you want to get used to that, more of enduro and trail riding experience is required.

"My fitness definitely has to improve. People don't understand how fit you have to be to do 900 km a day." Aravind became only the second Indian to compete in the Dakar, after former teammate C.S. Santosh, who finished 47th this time. “I met him a couple of times there,” he said. “We did exchange some thoughts. [After my fall] he was consoling me, asking me to be positive.”

As chastening as this experience has been, Aravind will be better for it. “This was my first Dakar,” he said. “I was fortunate to have a team manager (David Casteu) who has been on the podium before. I listened to his guidance and did what the team asked. It was definitely disappointing to crash out. But I've been in the same situation before and bounced back. I'm sure I'll do it again.”