Passed By Price. And proud of it!

2 weeks ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Troy Pears

Where has Toby Price been lately? Okay, we all saw Australia’s first Dakar Rally winner make an appearance on four wheels at the recent Finke Desert Race in Alice Springs, but his two-wheeled presence was conspicuously absent at both Finke (where he had the opportunity to post a historic sixth win this year) and last weekend’s Hattah Desert Race, which he’s also won five times.

Well, it’s a badly kept industry secret that Price is still nursing ligament damage in his knee. It’s collateral damage from breaking his femur at the Dakar earlier this year, which is taking much longer than anticipated to properly heal. Hence Price’s whirlwind trip to Austria in recent weeks for more extensive rehab from Red Bull’s finest athlete repair technicians (aka, doctors), to ensure he’s 100 percent for the 2018 Dakar Rally in January, and ideally a few lead-up cross-country rallys prior to it.
Sadly, Price’s dickie knee means he’s unlikely to be a starter at next month’s Transmoto 6-Hour at Conondale. But that won’t stop us reflecting on last year’s event, where Price used his 200kg Dakar to towel up pretty much everyone else on the 15km loop, all of whom were aboard hardnose enduro or MX bikes that were much more suited to the terrain.

This content was originally published as Andy Wigan’s Editorial in the November-December, 2016 (Issue #59) of Transmoto’s digital flipmag….

I’ve made three passes in the space of five minutes, and I’m feeling pretty good about myself. The sun is shining. Everyone seems happy. I’m aboard KTM’s lightweight new 350XC-F cross-country weapon. And I’ve found a window between organisational duties here at the 2016 Transmoto 6-Hour – staged on the hallowed hillsides surrounding Conondale’s Green Park MX track – to cut a couple of cheeky laps. But just as I’m enjoying the fact I haven’t been choking on thick dust for a whole minute or two, I sense a bike on my tail. It’s got a throaty exhaust note, and I can hear the bloke has good throttle control, but I’m not about to let him past. Not immediately, anyway. I mean, it would dangerous to do so in the middle of this gnarly, off-camber singletrail (translation: ‘I’m acting like a dick cos I’m not into the idea of sitting in your dust so soon after reaching this rarefied fresh air, pal’).
Anyway, by the time the goat-track opens up into flowing firetrail, it sounds like I’ve opened a decent gap on my pursuer. Chest out and elbows up, I click gears and fire the Kato off a downhill section’s first erosion mound. Next thing I know – and literally within a second of first hearing the return of that throaty exhaust note – boom, I’ve been passed. The guy is doing what seems twice my speed, and I just catch a glimpse of a red bull on the side of his bike. Yep, there goes Toby Price…

“Toby Price dismantled my illusion of speed by blowing past me on a sketchy downhill while he was aboard his KTM 450 Rallye. Yep, the fully laden Dakar Rally-winning machine.”

Now, under normal circumstances, being overtaken by Toby Price wouldn’t rate a mention. After all, he’s as quick as they come, and I’m… not so much. The multiple enduro, desert-racing, and now Dakar Rally champ could ride rings around me with one hand tied behind his back. Okay, both hands. But the pass that Price put on me was memorable for another reason. It wasn’t so much that Pricey blew by me so fast that the force of the wind almost took my jersey with him. Nor the fact he passed me on a downhill with so many loose rocks that it was all you can do to apply your front brake without washing out. It was the fact he managed to dismantle my illusion of speed by passing me aboard his KTM 450 Rallye; the mega machine he took to that historic Dakar Rally win back in January, 2016.

While I’m wondering how I’m going to pull my featherweight 350 up before spearing off at the bottom of this sketchy hill, Price is casually jumping his big-tanked behemoth off each erosion mound and two-wheel drifting the thing as if he’s aboard a mountain bike. All I can do is laugh to myself and marvel at this stark reminder of how Toby Price operates on an entirely different level to everybody else.

Later that afternoon, as everyone is gathered for the presentation, I tell a few people my story of being passed by Price. Funnily enough, they each fire their own ‘passed by Price’ story straight back at me. And unlike most stories about being passed – the ones we tend not to share with the world – this time around, we all seem to wear them like a badge of honour.

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