A BOURNEMOUTH graduate known as The Girl on a Bike, has been the first woman to ever enter into the Tunisia Desert Challenge.
Thirty five-year-old Vanessa Ruck, went on to complete the gruelling eight day endurance event, covering up to 469km each day and won the ladies class.
The extreme rally raid takes place over sand dunes and in blistering temperatures.
She endured sandstorms with up to 85km/hr winds which meant that the race had to be paused, she had bike issues leading to a night in the dunes, and another mechanical failure ending with the rescue helicopter being sent out.
Many riders were waiting for hours, some drivers even multiple days in direct sunshine with limited water following issues in the brutal conditions.
Despite being on a motorcycle, only able to take what you can carry, competitors are required to carry various safety items such as flares and emergency blankets. For many these proved to be lifelines.
During the 4th stage, Vanessa’s bike malfunctioned leaving her stranded miles from anywhere.
Vanessa said, ‘I had water as thankfully passing cars, trucks and buggies gave me some, but by 5pm I was bad. I called for an emergency evacuation and when they saw me, they were clearly scared. I was terrified.
“I had been trying not to breathe in the hot sand but it felt like my head was going to explode. I was delirious and was put on a drip. One competitor sadly died due to the heat as they didn’t activate emergency support from the organisers, I’m glad I found the strength to hit the button.”
The camaraderie amongst the competitors was high, and the organisers made an announcement when Vanessa was rescued safely.
She carried on with the next stage, and the next, battling the daily challenges of the Tunisian Desert Challenge, and went on to become the first ever female to enter and finish the tough endurance event.