Welcome to the Brake Magazine rolling Dakar blog. We’re going to update this page every day for the next week, with updates on the pro riders, the rumours around the bivouac and the best privateer stories we can catch. Consider this news central.
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Stage Four of the 2016 Dakar is now in the History books. Joan Barreda rode like Joan Barreda does, setting the fastest time by a decent margin, only to have the win stripped from him for ‘several speeding offences’. This left the number one position to team mate Paulo Goncalves. Rueben Faria and Kevin Benavides made the top three, with Toby Price coming in sixth behind the demoted Barreda and very fast Antoine Meo. Ricky Brabec took his first top ten stage finish with a strong seventh place.
Sadly the big news of the day was the retirement of Pela Renet of Husqvarna. At KM 402 he crashed, rendering himself heavily unconscious. Renet was found by Laia Sanz, who arrived approximately 1 minute 30 seconds after the incident. After a few minutes he came round and was airlifted some 30 minutes later. He is currently in hospital with some head injury and other undisclosed trauma, all of which have been declared non serious, by Laia, ASO and his twitter feed. Laia finished the stage 53rd, but will see her time re-instated.
Trauma crânien, mais a priori pas de grosse blessure pour Pela. / head trauma, but normally not big injury for Pela.
Otherwise, it was again business as usual for the top 20 today. Once again Rodrigues seems to be suffering from his illness and was narrowly beaten by his younger, super fast team-mate Adrien Van Beveren who has also posses rather decent wheelie skills as illustrated in this video here.
Benavides is also performing the impossible still and remains second overall. If he keeps doing this we’ll start to forget he’s a Dakar rookie. Stefan Svitko is still right there in 4th overall.
Tomorrow the riders are sent into the highest stage of the event and what will be a tough three days in Bolivia. The altitude is set to stretch to an unpleasant, headache inducing, chest tightening, 4600m in the racing stage.
Stage Five is also expected to see the first challenging navigation and off piste riding of the race in the open high plains. We can’t wait.
The Rumour Mill
The big rumour around the Dakar after Stage Four is surrounding Mr Barreda and his seemingly convenient speeding penalties. Why would he deliberately speed I here you ask? Theoretically, by winning the stage at hand, but not actually winning he can control the starting order before difficult stages and also avoid bleeding large chunks of time by making mistakes when leading out. It’s both plausible and a clever ploy if true. It’s either that or he doesn’t notice the horrendous noise his GPS makes in speed zones.
The general feeling from most of the racers is that so far the event has been dissapointingly easy. The terrain on the stage today was very fast, the navigation far too easy and most of the top riders are still waiting for the event to actually begin.
The Privateer Centre
Just like the race at the front end, the privateers had a day that either played out with relative simplicity or went something like Apollo 13. Manuel Lucchese had a day of the latter after passing out on his bike mid-special stage which unsurprisingly resulted in a monster crash.
Manuel – “Today was a disaster for me. The altitude made me sleep in the special stage and I crashed badly.” Fortunately, on a physical level I have no problems, but the bike is really bad. I broke all the navigation equipment and then I broke the supports of the two rear tanks and opened a slot* in the front. Even the exhaust was almost completely detached, as was the entire navigation tower. I started to feel ill, I was foggy, I couldn’t see well and I felt a little tired. Then almost without realising it I passed out. I fell asleep. I woke up on the ground and the bike was a little way away.
When I got up I felt exhausted and I realised that my reactions were very slow. I was okay in a straight line, when I was on the gas but when I saw a corner and I felt I needed to brake, my reactions were slow. It felt like it took time for my body to respond. Also, when I wasn’t braking I had strength but when I pulled the brake lever, my fingers were light and I had no power. “
In the article on OmniCourse.it he goes on to say that he came across a few other riders late in the high altitude stage that he thinks suffered the same fate, including Renet.
*This was translated from Italian and we guess means he split the front tank.
The altitude suffering was throughout the ranks and like altitude so often does, it struck down with random vengeance. Hans Vogels had a nightmare, vomiting twice in the stage, Sjaak Maartens was seen on Dutch TV getting oxygen help and the reports coming back from the Bivouac is that altitude sickness was rife throughout all the categories of racing.
Chris Cork also had a nightmare, news of which hasn’t properly come to light yet, but he finished dead last, some 11 hours behind the stage winner. CS Santosh joined Renet on the withdrawals list. The only info we could find came from ADVRider contributor 640 Armageddon – “The navigation tower is broken and caused some short circuiting.”
The General Classification
As the Dakar finally gets it’s groove on and the race heads toward the first marathon stage of the event, the riders were faced with terrain similar to stage two. The day proved to be dangerous for the first bike on track, with an abundance of animals and blind crests causing Toby Price to put his smart’n’sensible hat on. The big news from the stage was a Honda 1-2-3 than was subsequently removed through penalties.
That handed the young local Kevin Benavides his maiden stage win on his Honda South America CRF. That’s right, he’s not even an HRC rider. Paulo Goncalves followed the Argentine into second, with 3rd going to an Antoine Meo that clearly got his head around the road book. Fourth was the current fastest privateer in Stefan Svtiko. Fifth was Barreda, which frankly is a massive blessing for the spaniard as he’ll have a good start position for stage four, which could have seen could see him haemorrhaging time as the lead rider.
Ultimately these first two stages have amounted to nothing, with minuscule time gaps between each rider. It would appear the new 3 minutes start rule is allowing enough gap that catching the person in front is just a touch harder; the top ten were covered by a mere 2:26.
On paper Toby Price had a veritable nightmare and has been declared out of the running for the GC. At just six minutes back overall. Even finishing in 36th on the day, Price was a mere 7:41 behind. As he said himself “Five or six minutes behind on day three is virtually nothing. We’ve just got to stay there during the first week and then we’ll start pushing hard during the second week. I’m not disappointed at all.”
The only other surprise, that isn’t all that surprising, was the return of Adrien Van Beveren to the top ten. The Dakar rooking scored a fantastic sixth place. Likewise, Ricky Brabec is showing his speed is perfectly good. Helder Rodrigues claimed he had a bad day, finishing fifteenth, but followed that statement up with a words including “I have the flu” and “I couldn’t find my flow”. If fifteenth is the worst he has all rally he’ll be in good shape by the end of next week.
It also means that super-privateer Svitko is the leader of the Dakar. The best part is that he doesn’t even need a yellow jersey… And lets keep in mind that as of yet Dakar has barely turned the first corner.
As for the stage today (6th Jan, Stage Four), things are about to get far, far tougher. If you don’t know what stages are what click here. On top of a tough stage, with big altitude, bad weather, looking after the bike is of paramount importance with no work period in the bivouac.
The Rumour Mill
Word on the grape vine is that the weather is once again not great. Expect it to be super cold at 4000m.
The other word is that ASO have restricted press access to the marathon bivouac this evening. They’ve done it in the past too, but the marathon bivouac is very close to the really one. How very A.S.O.
There is no work time AT ALL for bikes. When the riders arrive at the bivouac the bikes will be immediately put into the closed park and that is that. If they need to work on their bikes, it will have to be done before they arrive at the finish of the day. We could see some very legal swapping of parts and mid liaison bike maintenance from the riders. The only limit is the time allowance for the liaison and the parts that can’t be changed under the rules.
All of the assistance crews are being sent to Bolivia today, so as to prevent assistance during the liaison. To control this they are all on timecards.
The Privateer Centre
Welcome to Malles Moto Mr Lucchese. A mere three days into the event sees these guys preparing for the marathon stage and high altitude by sleeping as little as possible.
It’s 1 am and i just finished working on my bike….3 and half hours to sleep before marathon stage starts….Malles Moto is freaking tough!
Manuel is still running strong on his little Yam, and sits a very respectable 49th overall.
Otherwise the privateer ranks appear to be ticking along okay so far, with just the single drop-out.
The General Classification
After the depression that followed the lack of racing on Stage One we finally got to see some serious throttle twisting in the windy, fast roads that are so typical of Argentina. The luscious green scenery gave way to some savage mud that provided a few of the GC contenders more trouble than it should have and let the Enduro stars shine.
Firstly, Toby Price took a very narrow win today and tactically, if all goes to plan it couldn’t have come at a better time for the sophomore. Starting down in sixteenth, the incredible Aussie showed the speed that’s seen him put forward as a potential winner. It also means that tomorrow will see the #3 open the way as the GC leader. In an ideal world he won’t loose much more than the three minute gap to rider starting behind, just as Honda’s Barreda managed today. If he can achieve that, it’ll put him a fantastic position for stage four, a day that is slated to see the first truly challenging navigation of the rally. At least, we think that’ll be the plan.
Second was claimed by Husqvarna’s Rueben Faria, a mere 20 seconds back from price. It’s an awesome statement from the Portuguese rider that he really is here to win and not just make up the numbers. An equally close third place went to top privateer Stefan Svitko just over a minute further back. KTM’s other new superstar Walkner put in a great showing to claim fifth place.
A few other surprises happened in the race results, with local boy Kevin Benavides putting in a great shift for 8th aboard is Honda. Barreda and Goncalves have also done a brilliant job of damage limitation, especially for the latter with the morning dust. They clocked 6th and 7th.
The big surprise that wasn’t really a surprise was from Sherco’s Alan Duclos. The Mali born rider has a fantastic habit of taking huge scalps from nowhere. From where he is now, Duclos has equal chances of winning tomorrows stage or finishing 87th. Your bet is as good as ours. His team mate Pedrero rode himself into a decent 9th place and was followed in 10th Quintanilla.
As exciting as the results today are, remember that it is essentially day one. We’ve another 11 days of excitement before we’ll know the winner and almost all of the top contenders are still in the mix. The only one who’ll be really gutted about the day is Jordi Villadoms who lost a solid 13 minutes floundering in the mud.
Stage Three is set to be pretty similar to Stage Two. The terrain is supposedly tighter and as such will suit those dirt road specialists again. Look for more good performances from the Portuguese, Barreda and Benvanides.
The Rumour Mill
We update the rumour mill as and when we hear things.
The rumour is circulating, as of 5am GMT, that special has been shortened from 314km to 190km. They are expecting more mud again. We at Brake Magazine love the lottery of the mud.
One of our privateer picks Daniel Gouet is out of the event. His Suzuki went bang relatively early in the stage and unsurprisingly no one was willing to tow him the 250km.
Simone Agazzi was also airlifted from the even with broken clavicle.
A similar incident Stephane Gourlia. An apparently small crash has broken his clavicle, scapular and given him a pneumothorax. His under observation in Cordoba but apparently well.
The Privateer Centre
Generally the Privateer front looks to be very straight forward. So far stage two was without too much drama or difficulty. Besides the slop of mud that only seemed to get worse only the three mentioned above failed to make the finish.
In the incredible, no mechanic Malles Moto class is would appear that everyones favourite Italian, Manuel Luccehse is leading the way.
Also on the Malle Moto front, listen to this great interview from our Dutch friends at Rally Maniacs with Malles Moto hero and former MotoGP star Jurgen Van Den Goorbergh. Jurgen cruised to 61st place on the stage.
Uruguayan Laurent Lazard suffered some savage rear brake issue. Details are sketchy.
On the english speaking competitors front, all the US and British riders seemed to plod themselves across the finish line.
The General Classification
Stage One on paper was going to be a great look at the speed of the serious contenders for this years event. Instead it turned into the biggest washout imaginable as the organisers were forced to cancel the stage due to torrential weather. As is often the reason, the stage was primarily shutdown due to the inability of the medical helicopters to fly in the torrential storms.
The images coming back from the event have been of flooded out thunderstorms, tracks entirely underwater and cold looking riders. At present it’s still raining in the bivouac which is putting more of the stages in in doubt. The official line is that the stage has been shortened with it slated to end at CP4 ‘to ensure competitor safety’.
All up the day ended in a simple but ultimately hard day with almost 600KM’s of vibrating, freezing cold, immensely wet conditions for many of the riders and while the riding wasn’t physical the conditions will only add to the fatigue.
As we write this the first riders will be a few short hours from rising to take on what will undoubtedly be a wet stage that will suit a very specific group riders and will strike fear into others. Typically wet stages have allowed for big changes in position due to the removal of dust and if conditions are as predicted you can expect the Slovak duo of Jakes and Svitko to be fast. Likewise, any of the riders from Enduro Word Championship backgrounds, including Cervantes, Meo and Verhoeven will be able to make good progress today. If the stage runs, expect the unexpected.
The Rumour Mill
The tales and rumours floating back from the bivouac have been interesting. Here is what we’ve heard so far.
Despite being tarmac based, the horrendous weather caused it fair share of incidents. Honda star Joan Barreda, Dutch Husqvarna supported Robert Van Pelt and KTM’s Austrian star Matthias Walkner both threw their machines down the tarmac. Walkner’s incident apparently involved a truck and has resulted in an undisclosed level of damage to his hip.
Paulo Goncalves bike gave up the ghost and required the team water boy Paulo Ceci to tow him a bloody long way. Goncalves has shitty luck at Dakar, remember when his bike caught fire and burnt to the ground? Lets hope that his dose for 2016 has been used up.
The rumour also stands that the start has been delayed slightly, as of 10:00am GMT.
Both Jordi Villadoms and Adrien Van Beveren have their birthday’s today.
The General Classification
The first day of the event was a relative formality, with a 300km liaison section and an 11km Prologue to sort the order for the first real day of racing. The seemingly straight forward course caught more than a few people out, with the rivers crossings proving slightly deeper than planned.
The short stage didn’t really provide too much of a surprise however, with Joan Barreda winning tied on time with Husqvarna’s Rueben Faria, followed very closely by a gaggle other factory riders. We’re pleased to see the Yamaha, so far at least, appears to be vastly improved over last years bike with Helder Rodrigues a close third. For the full results click here. An honourable mention should go to Robert Van Pelt, with his 21st place finish putting him in a great position for the next stage.
Honda’s Paulo Goncalves had somewhat of a nightmare stage, suffering with electrical and mechanic problems, resulting in a lowly finish. Likewise, KTM’s Factory Rider Laia Sanz partially drowned her bike. She was able to quickly solve the issue and despite both riders poor start, they begin today’s stage in 29th and 30th place after invoking the Elite Riders rule meaning they can, only once in the rally choose to start further up the order. It was a rule designed to make the race safer for all those concerned.
For Stage One, the event favourite Barreda will lead the way and be the first to experience the new 3-minute gap rule. With the top riders now starting with a bigger gap, it may be entirely possible for the Honda rider to exercise his immense raw pace and maintain the lead across the whole stage. It’ll be impressive if he does, especially with gravel road experts in Faria and Rodrigues close behind.
For the privateers you can expect a relatively straight forward day, with shed loads of dust, the occasional mud whole and a lot of hills.
The Rumour Mill
Right from the opening of the briefing details were fluttering back to the real world. Here are the snippets we heard.
The biggest news coming back yesterday was a general feeling of worry about the weather in Bolivia. Heavy rains mean mud, deep rivers and cold weather. Many of the riders are worried about the conditions after the challenge of last year.
Marc Coma has put his stamp all over this year’s event. The new Marathon Bivouac without any bike service was his doing. The navigation is expected to be tough too.
The second week is expected to be very tough with a lot of variation in the terrain. The organisers are expecting the stage after Salta to be where the rally win is decided.
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