After a rest day, Stage 7 of the Dakar rally ran Saturday, the first part of the marathon stage, and Joan Barreda (Honda) was the day’s big winner and the day’s big loser.
Barreda rode the first part of the special like a man possessed, but live tracking showed him slowing down towards the end. He still finished almost three minutes ahead of Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren, and eight minutes ahead of his teammate Kevin Benavides, taking the stage win.
Why did Barreda slow down? Turned out he had a big crash around the 300 km mark of the special, and rode the last 100 km on a badly damaged knee. As soon as he got off the bike, he was limping very badly, and he thought his knee might be broken. Now, medical staff seem to think there’s ligament damage. In any case, this is very bad news for Honda—it probably removes him from contention, although we likely won’t know until Stage 8 is well underway.
It gets worse for Honda, as Michael Metge – not a threat for an overall win, but a solid competitor capable of holding down the water carrier role to the end – had to retire after he broke a wheel on his bike. Even if he had been able to get to the end of the day, that sort of damage likely would have been impossible to repair himself, and since competitors are not allowed any outside help in the night of the marathon stage, he was out of luck no matter how you look at it.
Although the dune sections in Peru were difficult, it sounds as if the competitors are reaching a whole new level of misery in the mountains of Bolivia. Between rain, mud and cold, the riders are getting worn down, and sickness is making it worse (fourth overall Matthias Walkner complained of a stomach bug, which is just the sort of thing you don’t want on a marathon stage, when you’re doing your own wrenching). As well, the high mountain sections are causing altitude sickness and sapping power from the motors.
With the rally halfway done now and the marathon stage begun, expect things to get a lot more interesting. All along, the sages have predicted some of the rally stars are holding back, letting the current frontrunners beat themselves and their bikes up, to make it easier to pass them in the final stages. Well, there’s not much time left until those final stages, and if we’re going to see a push from the back of the top 10, it should come in a couple days. Stay tuned!
Stage 7 Top 10
- Joan Barreda, Honda
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:02:51
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:08:02
- Toby Price, KTM, + 00:08:43
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:08:53
- Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:09:16
- Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 00:09:30
- Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00:00:03
- Antoine Meo, KTM, +00:12:46 (00:01:00 penalty)
- Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:13:48
Overall Top 10
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:03:14
- Joan Barreda, Honda, + 00:04:45
- Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:08:18 (00:01:00 penalty)
- Toby Price, KTM, + 00:13:34
- Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, +0016:39 (00:02:00 penalty)
- Antoine Meo, KTM, + 00:18;40 (00:01:00 penalty)
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:20:47
- Gerard Farres Guell, Himoinsa, + 00:33:27
- Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 00:33:53