By sportswriters Sun Zhe and Ma Kai
URUMQI, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Born in the picturesque coastal city of Marseille, Neels Theric encountered a few Chinese tourists in his hometown in childhood. But he had never expected his motorcycling dreams could lead him to a journey intertwined with a Chinese team one day.
Competing in the 2023 Taklimakan Rally in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Theric and his Chinese teammates from Kove Moto Team have displayed stellar performances.
"The cultural environment here is vastly different from France," remarked Theric. "However, the local people's passion for cross-country rally is the same."
For Theric, his love for rally runs in his blood. His father, Daniel Theric, began his career in the 1970s and participated in over 150 competitions, including the renowned Dakar Rally.
After each race, Daniel vividly recounted his extraordinary experiences to his young son, igniting a curiosity and fascination with distant and unfamiliar places like the Sahara Desert and Peru in the heart of the French teenager.
"I like challenges, adventure, and pushing my limits," Theric said. "I watched the Dakar Rally on TV every year, dreaming of participating one day and riding through arid deserts and magnificent landscapes."
Theric started riding motorcycles at the age of 14, and his triumphs in the Tunisia Rally and Morocco Rally in 2022 earned him a coveted spot in the 45th Dakar Rally. Fearlessly blazing his trail amidst the sprawling deserts of Saudi Arabia, Theric achieved an impressive 18th place overall in his debut.
However, pursuing his dream demands financial and logistical support. Like many other racers, Theric needs to balance his dream with his job. Working diligently as a kitchen utensil salesman, his earnings were far from abundant. Nevertheless, his exceptional potential caught the attention of Kove, and the team signed a contract with him in March.
As a rising local motorcycle brand in China, Kove has made significant strides in recent years. In this year's Dakar Rally, Kove competed and finished the race under the banner of Chinese manufacturers, teams, and drivers, making history for China.
International competitions serve as the ultimate testing ground for the factory. "We have devoted relentless efforts to enhancing bikes' mechanical quality and adaptability," said Zhang Xue, the founder of Kove. "The more we expose our deficiencies, the more we learn."
In April, Theric, along with the Kove 450Rally, secured an impressive fourth place in his category at the Sonora Rally. "Without the unwavering support of the team, achieving outstanding results would be impossible. I genuinely like this bike," the 25-year-old said.
The Frenchman plans to participate in a series of events this year alongside his team. These events will culminate in his second Dakar Rally in 2024, where the rising prowess of China's motorcycle industry will capture the world's attention. The ambitious rider expressed unwavering determination to make history alongside his Chinese team.
"I hope to ride with Kove and clinch the Dakar title," Theric said.