Kevin Benavides keeps all options open in the 2018 Dakar after a gruelling stage in Fiambalá that saw Joan Barreda abandon the rally after one too many falls. Ricky Brabec and Nacho Cornejo also feature in the overall top ten.
Today’s rider starting order was dictated by the overall results of all vehicles yesterday, which mean a mixed start that featured several cars and trucks interspersed with the motorcycles on the track. This posed a serious disadvantage as riders were faced with heavily rutted tracks devastated by the passage of the larger four-wheeled counterparts. Yet the riders of the Monster Energy Honda Team were up to the challenge and battled against all odds to reduce the distance with the front-runners.
The eleventh stage consisted of 485 kilometres in total between Belén and Fiambalá, with 280 km against the clock. The day’s special stage included an early stint in broken-up dry river-beds with some trial-style riding and various treacherous zones before the race arrived at the first stretches of sand and dunes and their correspondingly demanding navigation. With the dunes out of the way, it was back to a combination of fast, broken tracks before reaching the Fiambalá bivouac.
Today Kevin Benavides, in spite of starting out behind the cars and trucks, was in gung-ho attack mode in an attempt to claw back some of the deficit from the overall leader in the general standings. By the end of the day, the rider from Salta had crossed the line in second place, eating some nine minute into the lead of Walkner, leaving the overall distance between the two in the provisional at 32 minutes.
A fine performance from Ricky Brabec, who finished fourth of the day and climbs to sixth place in the table. Likewise, Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo rode a solid first leg of the marathon stage to post tenth position on the day and ninth in the general rankings.
Joan Barreda abandons
Joan Barreda has retired from the 2018 Dakar whilst still holding second position. After having suffered several falls in some of the earlier stages of the rally and punishing his body severely, the exhausted Spaniard made the decision to completely withdraw. Joan had started the rally with a nagging injury to his left wrist, before falling heavily in the seventh stage, La Paz – Uyuni, where he sustained a damaged left knee. Despite the pain, Barreda soldiered on the following day to hold on to his top five place. Yesterday, on the route of the tenth stage from Salta – Belén stage, Barreda suffered concussion in the head. The rider, still determined to defend his overall second place in the general standings, was forced to call an end to his seventh campaign, which is living up to its name as the ‘World’s Toughest Rally’. Barreda goes home with three stage victories this time and a total of twenty-two in all his Dakar participations.
Today’s stage eleven was the first part of the rally’s second marathon stage (for the motorbikes) which means that there will be no mechanical assistance available from anyone other than the riders themselves. The rest of the teams have all moved on directly from Belén to Chilecito. The entourage will leave the small town tomorrow and head to San Juan to await the arrival of the riders who en route will have to overcome a total of 723 kilometres, including a reduced special stage of 288 kilometres and 426 kilometres of liaison section. Riders can look forward to stony track and areas of navigation.