“Feel sorry for myself or keep on fighting…”
For Joey Evans, the Dakar isn't just a question of passion, it's first and foremost a story of determination. After first starting to ride bikes when he was 26 years of age, switching from motocross to freestyle riding, and then to enduro and offroad races, he started considering doing the Dakar. Then came the 13th of October 2007 putting a major halt to his Dakar dream. Riding the Heidelburg Hare Scramble, the South African suffered a major crash. Other than 12 broken teeth which would be a detail, he could no longer feel his legs. He had broken his T8 and T9 vertebrae and crushed his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from below the chest down. Many would have given up and focused on living life in a wheel chair. Not Joey Evans. Not only would he manage to get back on his feet and walk, he would also keep his Dakar dream well alive. Two years after his accident, Evans was back on a bike. Wobbly at first, of course, but deterimned! What had been a dream slowly became reality as the years went by and he prooved he could compete. Ten years after his terrible accident; Joey Evans will be on the start line of the Dakar on his KTM and that in itself is more than a victory. The next chapter could be even greater.
“When I started riding off-road rallies I though that the Dakar was THE race I wanted to do. But then came the 13th of October 2007: a day that changed my life. I had always thought I was bullet proof. You always think that when you crash, it takes you six weeks and then you can race again. Not that time. I remember looking at my body and not feeling my legs. I had two choices: to feel sorry for myself or to keep on fighting. I'm not the perfect guy and I did have some tough moments. I spent several months in a wheel chair then over a year hardly walking. The thought of doing the Dakar came before the accident, but even after, I still had it in my mind. In my heart, I didn't believe that it could be possible but thought it would be such a great idea. Riding my bike, the belief was back. This is possible. Initially I had planned to do the 2016 Dakar but I hit a cow during a rally and broke my elbow. I had to push it back for another year and deal with another obstacle. My major difficulty is that my body isn't strong. My legs don't work properly and it's really hard to pick up my bike. When I'm walking, it looks like I'm drunk. The bottom part of my body doesn't sweat and that's a challenge in hot environments. Body fatigue is the major difficulty. Mentally I don't give up. My family see the Dakar as a positive influence for me. Of course they worry. My wife was there at my side when I crashed, but she understands my personality. I had two goals: one was to be at the start, the other is to reach the finish. The Dakar in one word? Impossible to use just one word. I would say: full-circle, accomplishment, healing complete! ”