After Stage 7, Marc Coma is still in control of the Dakar rally, although Joan Barreda Bort finished first for the day (his third stage win this year) and made up a little bit of the difference between them.
The biggest news in the last couple of days, though, is that race officials announced they’d found the body of Belgian rider Eric Palante. He’d been missing at the end of Stage 5. He was 51 years old; this was his 11th time running the race. We don’t know the cause of death yet.
At the end of Sunday’s Stage 7 (Saturday was a rest day), Coma is now 00:38:14 ahead of Barreda Bort. Cyril Despres finished third in the day’s racing; he’s now in 10th place overall. He got a break when KTM’s Chaleco Lopez crashed in Stage 6 and had to drop out. Lopez was always a podium threat, but now the riders between Despres and a top three finish aren’t likely going to be as tough to beat. He’s still 02:26:13 back from first, but if he continues to make up for his blown Stage 4 and Stage 5 with steady performances, he will likely climb quite a bit in the standings.
“It hasn’t been such an easy first week for anybody,” Despres said. “The organisers promised us a tough rally and they have more than kept that promise, with a lot of riders, including some of the very best, already out of the race. The fact that we are a new team with a new bike has made the challenge even tougher and we’ve had a couple of problems that have cost us precious time.”
Jordi Viladoms (KTM) continues his outstanding performance; he’s now in third overall, but he’s still 01:16:03 back from Coma. Alain Duclos (Sherco) is right behind him at 01:16:35, in fourth. Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Speedbrain is in fifth). He’s 01:39:29 back from first.