ENDURANCE: Toby Price at Nobbys beach on Thursday. Picture: Simone De PeakWHAT Toby Price craved most at the Dakar Rally was to prove his versatility.
To show his peers in off-road motorbike riding that he could succeed in world-class rally racing as well as enduro.
It was mission accomplished for the Aberglasslyn star, after his third-placing overall in the iconic Dakar on Sunday.
Not since Andy Haydon came third in his only Dakar in 1998, has an Australian reached the podium in what is considered the world’s most gruelling rally.
The 9000-kilometre race covers Bolivia, Chile and Argentina in some of the world’s toughest desert terrain.
Completing the race is itself a major accomplishment.
In the 36-year history of the race 28 competitors have died.
Price’s KTM Factory stablemate, Spaniard Marc Coma, recorded his fifth Dakar victory on Sunday when the final leg was completed in Baradero, Argentina.
Life for Price has certainly changed. On Tuesday the 27-year-old arrived home to begin trawling through a mass of emails and phone messages from well wishers, media and potential sponsors.
While four straight victories in the Hattah and Finke Desert races, four Australian Off-Road Endurance Championships and a second placing overall in November at the International Six Days Enduro has given Price a high profile within his sport, the Dakar has pushed his name into the mainstream.
On Friday, Price will head to Sydney for a round of television interviews.
“It’s definitely going to boost the profile and I hope it boosts the profile here in Australia for everyone else trying to do a similar thing,” Price told the Newcastle Herald.
“It’s good to see and hopefully it might end up landing me a good team ride overseas doing more rally events.
“I’ll keep my head down and charging forward and hopefully a few more good results will come and someone will eventually stand up and say we’ll give him a go.”
Despite the breakthrough success in the Dakar Rally, Price has no plans to ditch enduro racing.
On February 7, Price will launch into another Australian Enduro-X campaign with round one in Brisbane.
“It definitely puts a lot of strain on the body to be chopping and changing, but at the end of the day I want to be known as a well-rounded off-road rider and someone who can chop and change between things,” he said.
“Maybe not win races all the time, but be at the pointy end of the field putting pressure on the guys.”
Asked if the success at Dakar had proven to his peers and fans that he was a versatile world-class rider, Price said: “It was funny to actually hear when you’re at Dakar everyone was congratulating me on a six-day enduro podium position and saying, ‘Gosh I wish I could have done that’.
“I loved that because getting a six-day win is always hard work. To turn around and get a podium on a rally bike doing navigation, I think someone people have gone, ‘What he’s doing is pretty cool’.
“I can’t take it all for granted as it can be taken away pretty quick.”
The 13 stages of the Dakar Rally test the competitors both physically and mentally.
Surprisingly Price only lost five kilograms, but there were plenty of mentally challenging periods as he crossed the marathon stages in the Atacama Desert.
During those moments Price said the messages from supporters in the Hunter carried him through.
“It really does help a lot,” he said.
“You’re out in the desert for 600 to 700 kilometres a day, which works out to be 10 and 12 hours on the bike and you come down in a bit of a slump and are tired and you use that afternoon to be ready for the next day.
“Those messages definitely get your spirits back up again and makes you excited to do it all again.”