Dakar, Stage Five: All in, or not?

Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

Photo: Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool

At the end of Stage Five, Marc Coma (KTM) was in the lead for the day, but nowhere near enough to dethrone Joan Barreda (Honda) in the overall standings.

Coma finished 00:02:16 up on Barreda today, leading the pack through Chile. Hometown favourite Pablo Quintanilla (KTM) actually looked like he’d win for a while, but had to settle for third in the end, right behind Barreda.

There’s considerable debate as to Coma’s strategy at this point. Many of his fans are convinced he’s holding back, that he could blow the doors off Barreda if he wanted. The true believers figure Coma is coordinating some master plan with the other KTM riders to bamboozle Barreda eventually, losing him mid-pack once the rest of the KTM crew catches up, leaving Coma to take off and use his navigational wizardry and blinding speed to far eclipse everyone else.

The way things stand right now, Barreda just might dethrone Coma, if he doesn’t bin his Honda. Barreda just needs to stay close enough to benefit from Coma’s navigation, while maintaining a small lead in the overall standings. He’s been riding almost on Coma’s rear fender to do this, and it really bugs some of the KTM fans; no doubt Coma isn’t too happy about it either, but unless he pulls off a wily stratagem, he’s likely stuck in the current situation unless disaster strikes Barreda. Which, if history is an indication, is a high possibility.

Stefan Svitko (KTM) was fourth in Stage Five, and Paulo Goncalves (Honda) was fifth – a result he needed, although he still has breathing room before anyone catches him in the overall standings. We’re now nearing Dakar’s halfway mark, and Honda still has three riders in the top ten and two riders in podium position. If they can stay there, that would be Big Red’s best result since they dominated the race in the 1980s.

Matthias Walkner (KTM) had another solid stage, ending in eighth on the day. Plucky Alain Duclos (Sherco) was a couple minutes behind, and Toby Price (KTM) continues to also put in a respective performance while learning on the job. He was 10th, and probably will be a name to watch in future races.

By the way, Duclos is now out of the top 10 overall, but only by a few seconds. It’s quite a feat for him to keep the Sherco in the running with riders from the big budget teams.

“I’m just happy to finish this special in one piece,” he said afterwards. ““Frankly, this stage was like a punishment: I hated it. I was expecting it to be like that. My arms are hurting, I’ve no strength left in my hands and I’m right at the limit.

“There was no respite. You had to keep your wits about you from the start to the finish. Because the tracks were wide you could ride very fast, but riding over the bumps was like stepping on landmines!”

Jordi Viladoms (KTM) also said he took a physical beating in Stage Five.

“I got lost just after 30 km. I took one track, the wrong one because I was not concentrating. I lost six or eight minutes just at the start of the stage. So then the stage was really hard because I needed to overtake some other riders and physically my hands are destroyed. But anyway, we must look to the next stage.”

Laia Sanz (Honda) ended up in 20th in Stage Five, not as good as Stage Four, but she’s probably happy to remain in the overall top 20.

Some interesting gossip has been circulating since Sam Sunderland’s dismal second stage race. Sunderland ended up off-course, and claims to have received instructions from race direction to put him back on the track. Those instructions, he says, led him into even more confusion, costing him a lot of time wrestling his bike through a canyon and placing him even further back.

As a result of his efforts, Sunderland ended up dehydrated and was unable to receive the medical treatment he needed, resulting in a poor showing in Stage Three and a race-ending crash in Stage Four.

It’s hard to say what the whole story is, but if Sunderland’s story is true, it’s got to make his early departure that much harder to take.

Dakar 2015 : Bike rankings after Stage 5

1. Barreda (Honda) – 17:51:05

2. Coma (KTM) – 18:01:38 (00:10:33)

3. Goncalves (Honda) – 18:13:55 (00:22:50)

4.  Quintanilla (KTM) – 18:22:11 (00:31:06)

5. Viladoms (KTM) – 18:27:28 (00:36:23)

6. Faria (KTM) – 18:29:18 (00:38:13)

7. Walkner (KTM) – 18:29:41 (00:38:36)

8. Price (KTM) – 18:30:59 (00:39:54)

9. Svitko (KTM) – 18:33:10 (00:42:05)

10. Rodrigues (Honda) – 18:34:29 (00:43:24)


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