On July 27th, the eighth edition of the International Silk Road Rally finished in Moscow’s Red Square. Amongst the organizers was the French skier, resident of Andorra, auto and moto racer, yachtsman, winner of the World Ski Championships in 1997, and winner of the Lisbon-Dakar rally in 2006, Luc Alphand. The only skier who has been so successful in auto sport as well as skiing. He told all-andorra.com about the preparations for the “Silk Way” competitions, as well as his professional plans in Andorra.
Interview by Irina Rybalchenko
You are an advisor to the director of the Silk Road Rally for sports and international relations. What is your role?
This is a multifaceted function. I work on the track. My task is to control the conditions: navigational, weather ones… What is the state of the sand, if it rains – how much water, etc. In fact, I open the race. I leave early in the morning – at 3.00am or 3.30am – to check all the conditions. It’s a lot of work, many kilometers every day.
How many exactly?
Every day I check the roads the participants will use – sometimes it’s about 600 km, sometimes it’s about 800 km. Sometimes I take journalists with me, so that they can look at the participants of the competition “in action” and make a video and photo shoot on the track.
How long have you been participating in the Silk Road project?
This is my third year. Two months before the competition I did the route myself. Every time it is a very interesting experience.
I participated in the race for a long time as a pilot, but after an accident, I had to leave the sport. But I continued to work for the Dakar project as a consultant to French television. And now I’m among the organizers. That is, I have a multifaceted experience: like a pilot, a journalist and an organizer.
What can you say about the organization of the event?
It was a great team: Russians, French, Chinese, Spaniards, Belgians … Rally Director – authoritative pilot Vladimir Chagin. It was he who set the record for the number of victories in Dakar: he won the Dakar rally at the wheel of “Kamaz” in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2011, becoming one of the most successful riders in the history of the competition. No wonder he is called “the King of Dakar”!
How many countries took part in the competition?
About 26 countries.
Will you improve any technical or organizational issues for the next year?
We – the organizers – must approach the competition more creatively. Our participants need adventure. Rally is a discipline for real adventurers. Two years ago we did the Moscow-Beijing route. It was a competition with real adventures – we crossed Russia, Kazakhstan and China. We need to choose a route with a decent level of complexity, so that it would be of interest to our participants. This year the organization was good, but unfortunately the Chinese part of the route was cancelled – and it was so important! Thus, the Astrakhan-Moscow route was the one used with a podium here in Red Square.
The route passed through the Astrakhan, Volgograd, Lipetsk, Tula and Moscow regions, and also through the territory of Kalmykia. Over the seven days the participants covered about 3,500 kilometers. A total of about 70 crews left at the start.
Why was a part of China cancelled?
There were some problems with the logistics and organization. However, here in Moscow, there is the Minister of Sports of the People’s Republic of China Gao Zhan, and next year our cooperation with China will continue, that’s for sure. Perhaps we will also lay part of the route across Mongolia or maybe in Turkmenistan. We need to open new countries and new landscapes.
What can you say about the participants’ levels?
We had a lot of professional riders of a high level, including those who had won the Dakar. Team “Kamaz” is one example. The current rally was attended by the winner of the Dakar rally Nani Roma, from Spain. This year we had more participants in the category of “trucks”.
The results are as follows: the crew of the X-raid MINI team Yazid al-Raji won the “Silk way – 2018” rally among the off-road cars; the crew of the “KAMAZ-master” team won in the truck race of the rally.
What is the Silk Road Rally’s budget?
I do not know the exact figures, but it’s huge. It was necessary to provide logistics, security, medical care … Competitions were followed by helicopters – the crew of doctors and TV journalists. The main Russian partner is Gazprom, Chinese – FBlife (a Chinese digital platform). In Russia, this event has a very high status.
When did you become a resident of Andorra?
Since January of this year.
Will you participate in organizing sports events in Andorra?
Yes, at the moment I am working in Soldeu (Grandvalira) as the ambassador of the World Ski Championships, which will be held in Andorra next year.
What is your role?
I am responsible for promoting Andorra’s international image and for promoting skiing in the principality generally. We work together with the International Federation of Ski, as well as the Andorran Federation of Ski. In addition, I work as an adviser at a technical level. As this is a big and important event, it requires highly professional preparation of the ski slopes, as well as good conditions for the media.
In Andorra there are famous sportsmen who are also residents of the principality and organize various sporting events (Cyril Despres, Purito). Do you have any similar plans?
At the moment I am concentrating on preparing for the World Cup. My task is to promote skiing. I hope that I will stay in Andorra for a long time. I like mountains. I was born in the mountains. I feel at home in Andorra.
Did you like Moscow?
I am impressed! It is a beautiful city!