In our last issue, we reported that Joey Evans was about to compete in the biggest bike race in the world – the infamous Dakar Rally. This is what happened
On January 14, Joey Evans drove onto the podium in Buenos Aires, Argentina after participating in the 9 000 km race. “It was wow! It was a fantastic feeling to have accomplished my dream,” he says.
Joey’s two-week journey to the podium was, however, extremely tough.
“Because I struggle with spinal cord injury (SCI)-related problems – such as controlling my temperature and bowl movements – I have to use a catheter to urinate and therefore had to use disposable ones for Dakar,” he says.
As if his SCI wasn’t taxing enough, he took another blow on the second-last day of the rally that almost cost him the race and his life. A car hit him while he was on his bike and badly damaged the bike. He recalls that if he had fallen to the right instead of the left, the car would have run over him.
The 41-year-old athlete looked in despair at his broken bike, adorned with stickers from more than 300 individual and company sponsors who had contributed time and money to get him there. His wife, Meredith, and their four daughters, Kayla (17), Jenna (16), Tyra (14) and Shawna (12), had done so much too – selling hats and ice cream – to help raise the R1,1 million he needed to achieve this goal.
“I thought, I couldn’t have come this far to end it all on the second-last day. Even if I had to push the bike for another 10 km of the 60 km remaining for the day, I would have done it, just to get a little further than I was,” he says.
Fortunately, he spotted a stranded bike nearby. The locals explained to him in broken English that the owner had had an accident and had been airlifted to hospital. “The riders’ bikes are usually picked up about 48 hours after an incident. I looked at it and knew this was my chance.” So he and his team stripped the bike in the middle of the desert and put the necessary parts on his own bike.
Although he had to eat and drink often along the way, and a broken radiator required him to constantly stop to throw in water, Joey made it to the podium on the final day. He says it was an amazing and unforgettable experience. Would he repeat it? No, he says. “I’ve achieved my goal, now I want to help others achieve theirs. People tell me that I have a cool story, but there are lots of people who are only starting their cool story. They just have to follow through.”