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Kevin at the coronation with the legendary Touareg trophy (Dakar Press).

His nose wound is one of the war marks. That war called Rally Dakar that in 2021 it had twelve battles that were its stages (7,658 kilometers), where in the end Kevin Benavides sang victory. The Salteño made history by giving our country and Latin America the first triumph in motorcycles. His tired face is eloquent, but also his joy at achieving the dream of his life. The official Honda rider proudly wears the legendary Touareg, the winner’s trophy that states that “I don’t take it off for a minute. I even sleep with him ”. After winning the toughest race in the world, a long journey from Saudi Arabia and just arrived in Argentina, Infobae was able to speak to him exclusively.

-What does it feel like to win the Dakar?

-Lots of joy, pride and happiness because behind this there is a lot of sacrifice, perseverance, determination; Well, to achieve this, to leave my country so high was my dream.

-What changed in you from the other Dakar to this one in order to win?

-This is my fifth time. There is an internal and above all emotional maturation. Greater peace of mind. There is maturation in terms of piloting and navigation. Rally raid is a very dangerous and highly technical sport that can vary from one second to the next. To be able to win a Dakar there are many factors that influence and it is very difficult to make a perfect Dakar. You can always get lost, hit yourself; there are so many days, so many hours that everything can happen.

Unlike cars or trucks, where pilots and sailors travel comfortably, riding motorcycles and quadricycles generates greater wear and tear than its competitors. Especially on the two wheels where they almost always stand still. That gives more credit to their winners. Benavides triumphed in the fifth stage where he had a fall in which suffered a broken nose. “I also felt something in my ankles, but then they did plates and it was only two sprains”, He revealed. Then he repeated victory in the ninth stage and in the next he jumped to the top of the general classification. He ran eight days injured out of a total of twelve of competition.

-How did you keep running with a broken nose and sprained ankles?

Laying an egg. I knew that was not going to stop me. As much as I was going to feel a lot of pain at that moment, I did not let up. He knew that later he would be able to come and get the attention. Somehow I was going to be able to prepare for the next day.

-What were the keys to the victory?

-The concentration, determination and navigation. Also maintain a certain pace for the entire race, be even. Also the bike (Honda CRF 450 Rally) responded wonderfully.

-Why was navigation so difficult this year?

It was the hardest Dakar I ever raced. The organization put together a very technical layout in terms of the roadbook they prepared. A lot of complicated, difficult navigation, and I emphasize that because a lot of drivers were getting lost. When you opened the track (starting ahead on the stage) you lost time, or they took time (penalties) and when you left behind you could recover that time.

Winning on two wheels is very special for several reasons. Because it is one of the two main categories along with cars. It is the most dangerous since it is the one that claimed the most lives (22). Then because she is the one who conceived the Dakar. It is the vehicle that the creator of this race, the remembered Thierry Sabine, used when he lost in a race in Africa in 1977 and that survival inspired him to create the great adventure of motorsport. Motorcycles have a myth and winning in the division goes beyond success itself, it is epic.

-Carlos Reutemann said that he greeted his colleagues in Formula 1 because he did not know if they were coming back alive from a race. Motorcycles is the most dangerous category. Do you do the same?

-No, nobody greets each other thinking of something like that (last year his friend and teammate Paulo Goncalves was killed). But yes, it is one of the most dangerous races in the world and I can safely say that it is the riskiest of all. We go deep without knowing what is ahead. We only have one piece of paper that tells us where we have to go. We do not know all the danger there is and day by day it goes at a very high speed.

In the air with his Honda CRF 450 Rally (Dakar Press).
In the air with his Honda CRF 450 Rally (Dakar Press).

-The Dakar is a mentally exhausting race. How do you handle the psychological aspect?

-I work with my psychologist throughout the season with exercises, meditations, concentration work, various things that add up throughout the year.

– Is there a moment when you can lose your mind?

-Yes, especially when things go wrong for you.

Benavides turned 32 (01/09/1989) in the Middle East. Except for his absence in 2017 due to an injury, since 2016 he did not have his own on every anniversary. But it is an anecdote. He’s used to making real sacrifices to dedicate himself fully to his career. It was worth it to get that far. From family events or outings with friends already in his teens when he started running in enduro where he won 18 titles: provincial (10), national (3) and Latin American (5). Until one day the Dakar arrived in South America and was bitten by the “Odyssey”, as he knows it from the race.

-As a boy, did you watch the Dakar in Africa and imagine this?

-I could not imagine. When I was in Africa I saw it as something very far away. Yes later when he arrived in Argentina in 2009. That made me want to get involved, but hey, I came from enduro and there was a learning step to get there.

-What did you put aside in your life to get here?

-Since I was a boy I dedicated myself to motorcycles. Professionally since the age of 15. I have sacrificed many moments, 15th birthday, outings with my friends, celebrations, vacations, all for races, training. When my friends told me to go out I had to go to bed early because the next day I had to train. The life of a professional athlete is often not easy, but hey, it is in search of a dream.

Kevin at 4 on his first motorcycle (@kevinmaxbenavides).
Kevin at 4 on his first motorcycle (@kevinmaxbenavides).

-How do you get to race in an official team in the Dakar?

-First showing that you have the skill, speed and conditions as a pilot to be able to arrive. I did it on my first Dakar where I finished fourth (he was the first Argentine to win a stage on motorcycles) and that opened up the possibilities for me to join an official team.

-How did you handle the transition from full speed that is enduro to rally raid, where it is not always useful to be the fastest?

-They are two very different disciplines. Enduro gave me riding techniques and that helps me a lot because I know how to handle most of the terrain. What I had to learn next was navigation and everything else that comes in.

-You participated in a road safety campaign. Why are there so many motorcycle accidents?

-Yes, with Honda. What happens is that there are many people who, before learning to brake, accelerate. That’s where accidents come. And the one who does not have the driving technique or does not know about the risks does not take dimension of the blows they can have and others. That is where most accidents happen.

-In Argentina, is your achievement given a real dimension?

-Motorcycling may not have the impact that another sport such as soccer has. This news of the Dakar reaches more people for what the race represents, for adventure, survival, more than fourteen days running in the desert. When I was racing in Enduro it was not as important as when you started rally raid. I think people are motivated by the fact that you are running for so long and so on. I think that part captivates them.

-How long will it take until you fall into what you achieved?

-I don’t know, now what I want most is to get to my house because I’ve been traveling for 48 hours, but hey, first enjoy it with my family and my people, that is the most beautiful part of all this.

I kept reading

Manu Andújar: the story of overcoming for love of quadricycles that led him to win the Dakar

The best images of the Argentine Kevin Benavides and Manuel Andújar, champions of the Dakar 2021

Shocking accident in a race in Paraná: The Dipy caused a brutal multiple crash at the start

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