Salta turned out in force to welcome the participants of the Dakar to Argentinean soil; in particular local boy and Monster Energy Honda Team member Kevin Benavides. With the special stage cancelled today, riders had to complete the link section by road from Tupiza, Bolivia to Salta, Argentina.
Today there was no stage nine to ride in the 2018 Dakar. The organisation yesterday decided to annul the final special stage to be disputed on Bolivian soil after heavy flooding and swollen rivers wreaked havoc in the area. The riders and assistant vehicles nevertheless had to complete the 520-kilometre stretch which separates the camps at Tupiza, Bolivia and Salta, Argentina.
Kevin Benavides, the first ever Argentine to win a Dakar motorcycle stage (in 2016) as well as the first to occupy overall top-spot, was greeted with a hero’s welcome. Benavides, second overall, along with Monster Energy Honda Team team-mates, Joan Barreda (fifth), Ricky Brabec (eighth), and José Ignacio Cornejo (fourteenth) arrived together at the bivouac located in the Palacio de Congresos in the capital of the Salta province, where they began the preparations for tomorrow’s important stage.
The tenth stage, which links the bivouacs of Salta and Belén, will feature a total of 797 kilometres, including 424 km against the clock. A crucial sand and dune-filled stage, with a final stint that will require some deft navigation, could prove to be decisive towards the overall results as the race heads into its final days. The final classification of tomorrow’s stage (motorcycles, quad, cars, SSV and trucks) will dictate the starting order of the coming Super-Fiambalá stage, the next marathon stage.