A little over 30 years ago, a bright young man was working at a French coast resort town in the North called Le Touquet. In the summer things were very busy, since the beach is the closest beach to Paris (hence the area is dubbed “Paris Plage” - Paris Beach). Lots of things to do, with a big and wide beach full of sunbathing people.
But in the winter things are a bit dead. The young man was a passionate motorcycle rider, and together with some like minded friends, he decided to race on the beach. A couple of dozen of them started a beach race, just for fun. When they finished racing they noticed that they had drawn an immense crowd of people who were watching them.
The young man decided that maybe it was a good opportunity to breath some oxygen in a resort town that was as dead as a door nail during the winter months. So, he organized a beach race during the first weekend of February.
The young man was called Thierry Sabine, and after organizing the “Le Touquet” beach race (now called the EnduroPale), he went on and started another race which has become the most popular and toughest race in the world; the Paris-Dakar!
Both the Le Touquet and the Dakar earned him world fame. Unfortunately, he has not been able to enjoy the fame since he died in a helicopter crash during the Dara race. But both his legacies live on.
The EnduroPale has become “the” race to attend for February. 1100 motorcycle start (at the same time), and must race for the hole shot 7 kilometers away.
Usually, the hole shot winners are bikers with specially prepared motorcycles. KTM 950 and BMW HP2 have been previous winners, but the last year’s winner of the hole shot was a Honda 900 CBT Fireblade, specially prepared for deep sand.
Speeds reach 200 kph, and then the 1100 motorcycles are funneled through a bottle neck. They used to race through the sand dunes, but that got stopped several years ago due to environmental concerns. Now the first bottleneck is a narrow hill.
Of the 1100 motorcycles thundering, stumbling and crashing through deep sand over 15 kilometers, some 20 are professionals, 50-100 are expert riders and the remainder are Sunday riders who want to say they participated in the great race. Many have never raced on sand before.
For three hours, you see the professionals dodging falling motorcycles and crashing riders, jumping over motorcycles littered on the ground with exhausted riders next to them.
Since the spectacle is free, the “show” extracts record crowds. Some years, despite the cold, 500,000 spectators have stood alongside the beach front.
Many nationalities have participated from around the world. Big names like Cyril Despres, David Knight, Potisek brothers, Jean-Claude Mouse and Arnaud Demeester have been present.
There are a lot of prizes for the different categories, and recently, the organizers have even awarded a prize of the top foreigners.
This year the organizers are doing one better. The €242 registration fee will include a DVD of the race, so if you’re participating, you’ll see what you missed.
If you’re interested, registrations open on 6 October. → http://www.enduropaledutouquet.fr/
The race itself will be held on the 22nd of February 2009.