Dakar, Stage Seven: Single-handed heroics

Photo: Toby Price

Paulo Goncalves (Honda) won Stage 7 on the timesheet, but Marc Coma (KTM) and Joan Barreda (Honda) arguably were just as fortunate – particularly Barreda, who once again earned his nickname “Bang Bang” with a spectacular crash.

Coma, who finished second (Matthias Walkner was third), made up about half his time lost against series leader Barreda. He’s now less than seven minutes back, and that’s nothing for Coma to make up.

However, Barreda should be counting his lucky stars. He suffered a crash at the 200-km mark of the special and smashed his bike bad enough to break off the left side of the handlebars. In his words: “The road book contained a danger warning, without specifying whether it was level 1, 2 or 3. I saw it from quite far away and I started braking 100 meters before it, but the mud caused the motorcycle to slide and I hit the obstacle. I was sent flying. … I rode 120 kilometers with just one hand. My motorcycle also stopped at another time and I lost a further four minutes.

It's impressive that Barreda even finished, let alone manage a 12th position on the day. Photo: Radio Maray
It’s impressive that Barreda even finished, let alone manage a 12th position on the day. Photo: Radio Maray

He modestly added that “After that I pulled out all the stops.” He ended the day in 12th for the stage.

Photos of Barreda’s bike at the end of the day confirmed the story: the handlebars were completely broken, and it’s amazing he was able to finish the stage at all, let alone only lose two minutes against Coma.

By the way, despite Barreda’s chance to beat him, Coma apparently stopped after seeing the crash to make sure he was OK. The incident looks good on both of them – Coma for his sportsmanship, and Barreda for managing to do so well while riding one-handed.

Of course, Barreda’s in a predicament now, as the riders are in the middle of their marathon stage, and cannot receive outside help. The Honda truck can’t drop off new bars for him. However, Barreda is allowed to receive help from other racers, and there’s talk he might be getting a set of handlebars off a quad that won’t be able to continue on; there’s also talk he might be getting a set of handlebars from Demian Guiral, a rider for the Honda South America team. Whatever it takes, rest assured HRC will do what’s necessary to keep their top rider in the mix.

Other riders with good results today included Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), who ended in fourth, and Toby Price (KTM), with a fifth.

Price is doing extremely well in his first Dakar race, although he’s learning navigational skills on the job, so to speak.

“I tried my best to stay on the course, but I made a few mistakes,” he said. “The altitude makes it a lot tougher than I thought. The bike has been great and has done an amazing job during this marathon stage, I’ll check a couple of things this evening and that should be enough for tomorrows stages.”

Price has done so well, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be back.

Of course, the racers are in Bolivia now. Weather patterns mean some changes for the race Monday; the special stage starts after Checkpoint Two, not Checkpoint One.

By the way, if you want to see some pretty cool shots of the rally, check out these snaps by rally photog Peter Lusk.

Dakar 2015 : Bike rankings after Stage 7

1. Barreda (Honda) – 25:40:48

2. Coma (KTM) – 25:47:16 (00:06:28)

3. Goncalves (Honda) – 25:51:47 (00:10:59)

4.  Quintanilla (KTM) – 26:06:04 (00:25:16)

5. Price (KTM) – 26:10:08 (00:29:20)

6. Rodrigues (Honda) – 22:14:39 (00:36:04)

7. Svitko (KTM) – 26:21:11 (00:40:23)

8. Faria (KTM) – 26:21:43 (00:40:55)

9. Duclos (Sherco) – 26:46:19 (01:05:31) (00:15:00 penalty)

10. Casteau (KTM) – 26:57:40 (01:16:52)

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