Marathon stages push Dakar riders to the limit

Stages 7 and 8 covered 1300km in total, with the Specials making up more than 900km of that

Marathon stages push Dakar riders to the limit

FOLLOWING a well-deserved rest day, Dakar riders hit the high-altitude trails of Bolivia on Saturday for the first of two grueling marathon days.

Climbing to more than 3,900m, the 425km Special consisted of primarily sand and soil, with some greenery also seen.

Stage 7 was a mixed affair for Honda’s Joan Barreda, who led the race at each waypoint. He completed the longest stage of the rally yet in 5 hours, 11 minutes and 10 seconds to take his third stage win of this year’s rally and stepped up a place to third in the overall ranking. However, a crash at around 300km mark saw the Spaniard injure his knee.

Speaking after the race he commented: ‘I started the stage all guns blazing and everything was going well, but around kilometre 300 I went off-track and had a nasty fall. I think I broke my knee, and from then the pain made me slow down. Now it's time to see what we can do about it, but it's looking really bad. I'm sure it's broken, my knee is out of whack and I can't even put my foot on the floor.’

Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren was hot on Barreda’s heels, crossing the finish line 2 minutes and 51 seconds later – a time that saw him overtake Barreda’s Monster Energy Honda teammate Kevin Benavides to become overall race leader, with a time of 21 hours, 49 minutes and 18 seconds.

Benavides remained close behind, however, after coming third in the La Paz to Uyuni special, crossing the line 8 minutes and 2 seconds behind Barreda. At the end of Saturday he was just 3 minutes and 14 seconds behind Van Beveren in the general classification.

Marathon stages push Dakar riders to the limit

At fourth and six respectively – both around 9 minutes behind Barreda – Red Bull KTM riders Toby Price and Matthias Walkner fought to continue KTM’s 16-year Dakar winning streak. In the overall ranks, Price remained in fifth – 13 minutes and 34 seconds behind Van Beveren – while Walkner dropped from third to fourth – 8 minutes and 18 seconds behind the leader, with a 1-minute penalty.

After winning Stage 6 and rising from seventh to sixth in the overall standings, KTM’s Antoine Meo ended stage 7 in ninth, 12 minutes and 46 seconds (plus a one minute penalty) behind Barreda. He dropped back to seventh overall as a result.

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla remained in the middle of the top ten pack with a fifth place finish, 8 minutes and 53 seconds behind Barreda. At the end of Saturday he was eighth overall.

Van Beveren’s Yamaha teammate Xavier de Soultrait finished Saturday’s stage in eighth, rising a position in the overall rankings to sixth.

Sunday’s Stage 8 saw more of the same terrain as the previous day, albeit with more soil and less sand as the rally climbed yet higher, to 4,800m.

2016 winner Red Bull KTM rider Toby Price could have another Dakar title within his grasp, after finishing yesterday third and gaining 6 minutes in the general classification. The Australian may only have climbed one position overall – to fourth – but he has significantly closed the gap behind leader Adrien Van Beveren and is now only 7 minutes and 35 seconds behind.

However, it was his KTM teammate Antoine Meo who took yesterday’s stage, finishing the 498km special in 5 hours, 24 minutes and 1 second – 2 minutes and 45 seconds ahead of Price.

Honda’s Ricky Brabec, who has been trailing in the top ten over the last few stages made up time yesterday, coming second to Meo, only one minute and eight seconds behind.

His Argentinian teammate and race leader Adrien Van Beveren’s closest competition, Kevin Benavides, finished fourth, further closing the gap behind the Yamaha rider. With just 22 seconds between the pair in the overall standings, Benavides is set to enter his home country in a very fortunate position.

Commenting after the stage, Benavides said: ‘It was very long, with fast mountain tracks. We quickly banded together with Adrien, Toby and Joan. Adrien and I have a great relationship. We're rivals on the track and good friends off it. I took time on him today and moved very close, it's quite fun. But now, it's gonna be a big fight for the win.’

Van Beveren himself finished Stage 8 in seventh, 8 minutes and 44 seconds behind Meo.

KTM’s Matthais Walkner ended yesterday in sixth, 7 minutes behind his French teammate.

Despite a gallant effort, Joan Barreda’s injury took its toll on the second of the marathon days, with the Spanish Honda rider finishing the 498km special in eight, and dropping to fifth in the overall classification.

‘It was looking unlikely that I would make the start line for today’s stage. I thought that I might not be able to participate today,’ he said.

‘The doctors bandaged me up and today I had the job of opening the track from the start of the special.

‘Over the first kilometres there was a part of dunes with vegetation and I suffered a little - it hurt me a lot. Then the other riders arrived and we were able to finish the day without further problems.

‘Now we need to see how the knee holds up, but without a doubt, the cancellation of the stage tomorrow will be a great help.’

Marathon stages push Dakar riders to the limit

A new entry to the top ten came in the form of Laia Sanz, who finished 10th – 14 minutes and 15 seconds behind Meo. The 32-year-old Spaniard is now 14th in the overall standings and hoping to better on her 16th place finish in last year’s Dakar.

With today’s Stage 9 cancelled due to poor weather and only four stages to go, the 2018 Dakar looks set to be fought closely until the very end.

In This Article

Sponsored Content