'I Love The Torture': Inside The Unbreakable Mind Of Dakar Winner Toby Price
The Aussie won his second Dakar rally on a body and a bike that just won't break.
Toby Price just won the world’s toughest off-road race, the Dakar* for the second time, with a broken wrist he suffered before the race.
What a man. And what a great chat we had when we caught up this week on his return home to the Gold Coast.
*The Dakar was originally so-named because it ended up in Dakar, Senegal. It now takes place in various South American countries, although this year it was entirely in Peru.
Ant: Hi Toby, huge congrats on your second Dakar win, broken wrist and all. Legendary stuff.
Toby: Thanks mate. It’s great to be home.
Ant: I heard you say afterwards you were “so damn stoked”. Sounded to me like you almost felt like slipping an extra word starting with “f” in!
Toby: Yeah, deep in my mind there was the thought for sure! But I held back because I think there might have been kids listening. But really, just to make the finish line of a Dakar is a task in itself, so to win it with the injury and push through, it was overwhelming.
Ant: Has it sunk in yet? I only ask this clichéd question because I heard you say it hadn’t. I’m wondering what the actual sink-in time is here. Are we close?
Toby: We’re not quite there yet. Sometimes feels like I’m gonna wake up tomorrow morning and be on the plane back to South America. But with the number of calls and everything coming through, it’s definitely starting to come on board that we’ve got the number one trophy on our hands for a second time.
Ant: How bad was the pain you endured during the race?
Toby: It was 5200km of sheer torture. At the end of every stage it felt like someone had been driving knives into my wrist. It’s still sore, but hopefully it’s only temporary pain. We’ll find out in a couple of days.
Ant: I wish you well with any upcoming medical appointments.
Ant: For the uninitiated, can you explain how much navigation is involved for riders in the Dakar?
Toby: From the very first time you hit the start button on the motorcycle, you’ve got to navigate. I’d say the motorcycle does 10 percent of the job, your riding skill does 10 percent of the job but if you don’t have your bearings in place, you’ve got no chance. You’ve got to be very quick and smart in your counter-actions if you’re not in the right place.
Ant: So it’s definitely not just about riding the motorcycle as fast as you can, hell for leather through rough country.
Toby: No way. Depending on the terrain, you’re riding at anywhere from 30 km/h up to 160 or 170 km/h. And you’re making decisions all the time. You’re so focused on where you’re going but you do have to take your eyes off the road and track a lot. It’s like you’re covering a football field really quickly but you don’t get to focus on what’s at the other end of it. It could be a drop, it could be anything. That’s the dangerous part to it.
Ant: Wow, it must me so mentally draining as well as physically exhausting.
Toby: Yeah, 100 percent, it is so mentally draining. At the end of the day, the whole body is just aching but between the ears is even worse. It feels like you’re smoking through ears. The Dakar really does drain you and put you in a place you don’t think your body can handle. But that’s the best part. It’s torture on the body.
Ant: I’ll repeat that back to you: “The best part is the torture.”
Toby: I like to see how far my body can go and how strong the mind can be.
Ant: You’re a hell of a hard man, Toby Price. Does your body hurt in the morning?
Toby: Ooohhhh yeah. Every morning when I get up, it does take a couple of minutes to get the body moving. My ankles crack, the knees crack. But that’s part of the territory. We just have to put up with it. And winning the Dakar makes it all worthwhile. Although I’m not looking forward to being 60, 70 or 80. That’s when it’ll kick in and I’ll say: “Why did I do all this silly crazy stuff when I was younger?” Oh well, you only live once.
Ant: How many bones have you actually broken?
Toby: It’s a record I don’t like having to my name, but I’m 31 years old with 29 broken bones. That makes me sound like a very average motorcycle rider, doesn’t it?!
Ant: No comment. Nah seriously, I think we get why.
Toby: Yeah, so I’ve broken pretty much nearly all the big parts of my body -- two femurs, my neck, my wrist numerous times, my shoulder, collar bones, ribs, the tally goes up and up. Unfortunately, that’s part of the game.
Ant: Looking at the footage from this year’s Dakar, it was mostly dunes and rocky terrain. What’s harder?
Toby: By far the dunes are the hardest thing to go through. On the last stage when [Chilean rider] Pablo Quintanilla fell, the same thing could have happened to me on that very same section. It looked completely smooth and flat, but all of a sudden a drop came so quick on him. You can never write a road book to those conditions because the dunes change so much over time. A drop like that could be over every ridge. From day one till day 10, this race is a challenge.
Ant: But you’ve got the right people behind you with Red Bull and KTM bikes. That’s 18 Dakars in a row for KTM, isn’t it?
Toby: It is. Red Bull is such a well-known brand all round the world, and at the end of the day they can make any athlete’s dream come true. And to have KTM backing, the motorcycle is pretty much unbreakable.
Ant: A bit like you. But even an unbreakable man's got to take a break. Please tell me you’re going to have a rest now. I think the whole of Australia needs to hear that.
Toby: Yep, I’m going to have a lot of couch time. I’m gonna sink into the couch very, very nicely. It’ll have an imprint of me for a little while. The body’s definitely aching, and in 10-12 days of racing, I lost up to 9 kilos. That in itself shows how demanding it is on body. So I’m feeling pretty jet-lagged, tired and sore. It usually takes the body a month to recover.
Ant: Well, we hope you enjoy your recovery. Hey before we let you go, here’s a totally random question I’ve asked lots of sportspeople in the past: Who would win a fight between a kangaroo and an emu?
Toby: Oh, it’s gotta be a kangaroo. Those things are dangerous. Have you seen them kick someone? When I go around the world the first thing people always ask me is “How dangerous is a kangaroo?”
Ant: We should get the Dakar over here to Australia. Imagine how hard it would be dodging all the roos in a race through the desert.
Toby: Mate, 100 percent! I’ve been saying for years we should bring the Dakar here. But the guys are always like “no, too many kangas here”.
Ant: Sooks. Hey, great chat Toby. Thanks so much for taking time out to speak to 10 daily. Now get back to that couch!
Toby: Thanks Ant. Will do!