If you’re reading these lines, you’re not necessarily a biker, but you probably enjoy the Dakar. And in that case, you certainly know the name Martin Michek. The 35-year-old motocross rider, who flew into the Dakar five years ago head first, is the best Czech motorcyclist and his message: “I want those guys from the factory teams to have bad dreams about me at night,” fully describes his character.
When you talk to him, he gets excited quickly, speaks quickly, gestures wildly. And he is also fast behind the handlebars of a motorcycle. “I just really enjoy it. But when I try to do something, I do it not one hundred percent, but one hundred and ten percent. Even though today I slowed down slightly in the second half, because I didn’t want to go completely against the crisis and it was better to take it easy. I didn’t even think it would be such a good result.’
He didn’t think that even two years ago, when he attacked the top ten. “That’s when I got a sniff of it, I realized that I not only enjoy it, but that I’m good at it.” If you think that Martin Michek spends the whole year preparing for the Dakar, you’re wrong. It does sit on a motorcycle, but on the motocross one. In addition, he runs, swims, strengthens. When the MRG team he rides for was having a navigation and riding camp, I kind of automatically thought he was there with them. But he wasn’t.
“The last time I saw a Dakar bike was when I drove it off the finish ramp last year. I went to ride in Dubai, like every year, but there I had the motocross race again. I drove some eight hundred kilometers there, which is better than nothing, but it’s also desperately short. Daniel Sanders, one of my rivals, announced before the Dakar that he had 64,000 kilometers behind him. If I had the budget for it, it would probably all be somewhere else.”
I laugh because it’s almost unbelievable that he performs what he does, but Michek has an answer for that right away. “God gave me about a wheel less or more. I must be such a fool, my wife has already texted me to slow down. But you know what it’s like when you get on a motorcycle, put on a helmet, and just roll.”
Martin Michek has long belonged to the MRG stable, which is led by Ervin Krajčovič. And he does it really well. Still, I can’t help but ask if someone from a factory team knocked on Michek’s door. “It’s generally very difficult today and someone from the factory probably won’t reach out for a driver who finished tenth, but they don’t know if he’s the right one. I see it here, the Dakar is no longer for those experienced bards who have done it with their heads, who won it thanks to experience. That they knew when to pull, when to look after it. Now you have to be 100 percent all the time. In navigation, in driving, in preparation. Every one of those riders in any factory team has what it takes to win the Dakar. They prefer to take a young guy, twenty, twenty-five at the most, with whom they work. And the boy must be a clear talent.’
The Czech MRG team is at the Dakar with three newcomers. And Michek is here for them too. “Of course I try to give them advice, both in navigation and how to deal with it, or I’ll even show them when we meet somewhere on the track. I’ve been here ever since, we always go as a team. Milan Engel spent even more time with them than I did, but whoever comes to me, I will gladly tell him about it. I myself remember very well when I started.’
The next question therefore directly suggests itself. In the Czech Republic, there are many motocross riders like Michek who dream of the Dakar, but do not know how to do it. “If you want to think about the result today, you have to be young. But even if you are forty, you can of course do the Dakar, just without unnecessary ambitions. First of all, you need money to be able to drive it at all, and then realize and sort it out within yourself how you want to drive. If for the result, then you need someone to teach you first. If only for a touch, then it can be managed with luck if you know how to ride a motocross bike at least a little. You will fall, it will hurt, you will repair a lot, but you will follow the tracks, your navigation will disappear and you will not have to push as much. Just put up with the fact that you won’t be the tenth, but maybe the hundredth.”