Fransua Rachmann is nervous but excited about riding in his first Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Competing as part of the UAE Charity Challenge team, Motoring first met the affable South African and his team-mates, Darryn Keast, Paul Anselmo, also from South Africa and Sean Curnow, from Australia, last November. The four riders had plans to compete as a team, as Anselmo and Curnow did in 2008, to raise money for the Future Centre for Special Needs in Abu Dhabi as well as the Malaria Consortium, a Uganda-based charity that aims to eliminate malaria, as well as other preventable diseases, from remote Ugandan communities.
Since then, Keast has withdrawn from the team because of an achilles tendon injury and Curnow had to pull out after he broke his collarbone twice, once when he came off his bike in training and again just days before the event was due to start. "I'd gone for my first ride since I broke it the first time,I'd gotten the all-clear from my doctor and then when I was doing some really simple exercises at home, it broke again," says Curnow.
The remaining riders, Anselmo and Rachman, have been struggling with troublesome shoulders but they are still confident of a successful Desert Challenge. "I'm not 100 per cent, but it's not affecting my riding," says Rachmann of his sore shoulder. "I'd say it's about 90 per cent at the moment." "I fell off on a ride and felt some pain in my shoulder, but adrenalin is an amazing thing." Rachmann admits to having some "butterflies" for his first Challenge, but he is grateful that he has been able to find out what to expect, based on the experiences from the 2008 event that Curnow and Anselmo have shared with him.
"We've got to pace ourselves out there," says Rachmann. "You don't want to go out 100 per cent from the start and get exhausted on day one. Maybe go out at 80 per cent - but it is true that to do the Challenge in the first place, we probably all have a screw loose." Curnow has been largely responsible for the promotion of the team to potential sponsors and says the global financial crisis has affected sponsorship and, while he does not think the team will raise as much money for charity this year, he says he has still been "overwhelmed" by the generosity of new sponsors as well as past sponsors that have come back on board.
"It has been a tough time for everyone over the past year or so and some companies have had to cut their budgets but for those that have been able to come back to us, we are really grateful," says Curnow. This year, the funds raised for the Malaria Consortium will focus on education for villagers as well as the prevention of other illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. Fransua Rachmann is blogging daily for The National from the Desert Challenge. Read his blog here.