The penultimate stage of the Dakar has once again produced some upsets. This morning, three riders set off from the Al-Ula bivouac eager to gain a place on the final podium. Brabec and Benavides remain in the battle for the overall win. Barreda has been forced to withdraw.
The longest special of the Dakar, as had been expected, caused some major shake-ups in the overall rankings. The originally planned 511-kilometre special stage was trimmed down to 464 kilometres due to route modifications. Recent rains had left the pistes in extremely poor condition causing race authorities to annul the most affected sections, citing safety reasons. There was, nevertheless, some complicated navigation to deal with on a route over all kinds of terrain: hard rock-filled tracks, dunes, sand and even a downpour of rain to welcome the riders upon arrival at the new Yanbu bivouac.
Ricky Brabec and Kevin Benavides still have their options wide open for the Dakar win. Today, the Monster Energy Honda Team riders completed a full stage which leaves them in an advantageous attacking position to be able to finish this Dakar on a high note. Ricky Brabec got the day’s stage off and running, opening the track and, in spite of some setbacks, managed to keep a steady pace, which eventually saw him posting an excellent sixth place, some 7’13” behind the Dakar leader Kevin Benavides.
Argentinean Monster Energy Honda Team rider Kevin Benavides defended his overall lead in the race well to claim third place on the day. Tomorrow, he will attempt to hunt down his rivals in a bid for top honours on the final day of the Dakar Rally.
Joan Barreda’s Dakar came to an end on this penultimate stage. The Spanish made a navigational blunder which meant he was unable to stop at the refuelling point. A few kilometres later the Spaniard ran out of gas and was forced to retire. The rider then underwent medical checks to determine his condition after a fall yesterday.
The Dakar wraps up tomorrow with a final stage scheduled to finish in Jeddah, where the rally both starts and finishes in this 2021 edition. There will be just 202 kilometres of timed special, concluding on the shores of the Red Sea, but also featuring over 200 kilometres of liaison section. The winner of the Dakar 2021 will be known at the end of the 452-kilometre special stage.