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Organization News

D29 – The dean is missing!

11.05.2024 - The Sun Trip
The Sun Trip The Sun Trip

DAY 30 <-> DAY 28

Different weather conditions on the Sun Trip routes over the last few days. In Spain, the two teams on their way to the finish have been enjoying plenty of sunshine, even if the wind has been contrary at times.

The Germans, a solid 3rd in the race, sent us this video to give us some news about their bike.

Géry & Baudouin, valiant 4th in the race, had a number of technical problems again today. But they’re making good progress and have sent us this video of the beautiful countryside of La Mancha, to the east of Madrid in central Spain.

In Morocco it’s a completely different story, with cloud almost everywhere on the route, and even rain for Vivien Dettwiler, who had a short day today.

In the desert section, there was no rain, but a large, persistent cloud, laden with sand, slowed down our three participants on the crossing to Zagora: Herman Segers, Vincent Lauga and Jean-Louis Mérelle. This video sent by Vincent clearly shows the situation. The landscapes are dull and the solar recharging almost non-existent!

This difficult situation brings us to the main news of the day, which concerns our doyen, Jean-Louis Mérelle.

At the end of the day, Jean-Louis’ family alerted the organisers. They had no news and his GPS fix had been stuck in the same place for 3 hours, in the middle of a desert straight. Jean-Louis’s mobile phone was cut off. There was no way of knowing why he had suddenly stopped in a desert area where, on the face of it, there was no reason to take a break.

At around 7pm, the organising team set about finding a solution. The first idea was to try and contact the nearest gendarmerie, to see if they had any information about an incident on the road between Foum Zguid and Zagora, where our dean had gone missing. While we were looking for the best contact, Paul Bermejo, based in Agadir, had the idea of contacting Jean-Marie Azaîs, a well-known solar cyclist on the Sun Trip, who was currently in Morocco on the fringes of the adventure. He had spent a few days with our participants in the north of Morocco, and this evening he was in Zagora, where he might have bumped into Jean-Louis. In a few minutes he found a car and went with a guide to look for Jean-Louis, a hundred kilometres further west!

Meanwhile, Vincent Lauga arrived in Foum Zguid. He lands at a campsite 300 metres from the local gendarmerie. So he’s in a position to give us the best number to call! That’s the Sun Trip spirit we love! At around 9pm local time (10pm in France), Jean-Marie Azaïs arrived at the site where Jean-Louis Mérelle’s beacon had been last checked. But he saw nothing. Night set in and the dean was nowhere to be seen, as if he had vanished into thin air. On the other side, Youssef El Haouass from the Sun Trip team, based in Tangiers, is on the phone to the local gendarmerie. Nobody seems to know about the accident. Jean-Marie Azaïs continued his investigations on the ground, questioning a few people in the nearest village, but nothing came of it. At 10.30pm French time, Jean-Marie was thinking of stopping his search and the Foum Zguid gendarmerie was preparing to send a team to the scene! Then, at the last minute, Jean-Marie came up with a lead: “Jean-Louis would be with some nomads, a little further away than his beacon”. The “Arab telephone” worked! At 10:50pm the dean was found and Paul Bermejo had a telephone conversation with him.

He was with some nomads and sleeping peacefully in his tent… His phone was disconnected. Contrary to the organisation’s instructions, he hadn’t taken a Moroccan SIM card, the extension on his French subscription had run out and he hadn’t been able to inform them that he was going to stop mid-afternoon, after only 50 km on the road, with his battery drained due to the lack of sunlight. His mistake alerted his family and a large number of people in Morocco. The story has a happy ending, but it’s a good example of what happens when you don’t follow the rules laid down by the organisers…

Here are the images that go with the morning’s story about Jean-Louis Mérelle! “I spent two timeless days, hard but great, with lots of encounters with the Tuaregs”! The oldest rider confirms that he had to stop at around 3.30pm, because of the wind and empty batteries. But he was never really alone, and the Royal Gendarmerie (alerted by the organisation following concerns expressed by his family) looked after him throughout the night and again this morning! Read the whole story on his blog: 

This morning Jean-Marie Azaïs sent us this video of guide Mohamed Bammour, who helped find Jean-Louis.

Finally, in Morocco, a huge well done to Michael and Jiri, who reached Taroudant today, welcomed by Paul Bermejo (again). We’ll wait until tomorrow to give you more information on the next stage of their adventure. It looks as though they’ll be heading back north without following the whole Sun Trip itinerary, as the situation is “a bit confused” at the moment, as our friend Michael Polak likes to say.

There were no changes in the race rankings.

Pics of the day

DAY 30 <-> DAY 28

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