Antoine Meo (KTM) won Stage 11 of the Dakar, proving once again that the young guns are pushing the race ahead, with the old masters Cyril Despres and Marc Coma gone.
Meo won the stage by a hair’s breadth (less than half a minute) over Toby Price (KTM), who put in another fast day and increased his lead, despite him saying beforehand that he planned to take things easy from here on, playing it safe.
While the 2015 rally has been Price’s to lose (and that’s not impossible, even at this late stage), Meo has certainly emerged as a top contender as well, although not in the same league as his Aussie counterpart. Two stage wins in your rookie year is quite an accomplishment, though,and expect improvement from Meo next year.
The special stage was shortened once again; officials called the motorcycle event at CP2, after 243 kms, saying there were a large number of riders in difficulty. It’s happened several times this year, and some competitors are still unhappy, although other riders are likely thankful for the chance to keep their race alive.
There have been several timing oddities caused by the way organizers ended the stages; they have been keeping results from the frontrunners who finish all the stages, essentially placing them in their own bracket, yet also letting the results stand for competitors who only finished the minimum of necessary waypoints. It’s creating confusion, and fans aren’t happy.
But despite the shortened special, there were still withdrawals yesterday, most notably Paulo Goncalves. The Honda factory rider had seen his race kept alive after almost destroying his engine in Stage 9. Parts swapping in the bivouac kept his hopes alive, but Goncalves ended up crashing again yesterday. He was found unconscious on the course after WP2, and evacuated to hospital.
Goncalves’ departure means Honda’s top-placed rider if fifth-place Kevin Benavides, a rookie racing for their South American satellite team. The factory team only has water carriers left in the hunt now, and none look likely to get remotely close to the podium.
There were several tough-luck stories yesterday that showed even though this year’s Dakar has been accused of being too easy, the race can still be a heartbreaker.
Ingo Zahn (KTM) said on Facebook that he had to withdraw after running out of fuel only 38 km from the finish line; he was unable to get any more gas from other competitors, and organizers airlifted him out.
Chris Cork (KTM) crashed out of last year’s race and was in spitting distance of finishing this year, with only two stages left after yesterday. But starting towards the end of the pack meant he had to ride a main track that was all rutted and cut up, due to trucks and cars. As he said on Facebook:
“I had to ride off piste which was great but to get to waypoints it was back onto the main tracks.
Bike in 1st gear,full throttle, clutch out but the engine could not turn the wheel in these conditions.One into this terrain the only way out was to get off the bike and push. Literrally wasted hours trying to find a way out from the soft stuff at every… point.
Anything more than flat and the bike was not going to move!!!!! I battled on into the night but then came across …………… the biggest hill cimb of soft sand i have seen.
It was endless and after mahy different route attempts and having to push the bike I had to throw in the towel. I called control to say I would get some sleep and continue in the morning. They agreed .
At 3am I was then called and told I could no longer continue – Game Over.
Its easy to look back and say what if. I went everything went into a downhill snowbal effect after the joys of Day 4. Battling at the bac was always going to be difficult. Teh day I went out I wasted an hour (with many other riders) trying to find way point 7 – should have taken the penalty and carried on. Also I should not have given 3/4 of an hour to a rider with no fuel!!!
I gave it my all and I can sleep well knowing that but yes Im devastated.
There will no other Dakar attempt – The stresses on family and money needed cannot be repeated.”
That’s a tough way for a long-term dream to come to an end.
Laia Sanz, who had a top-10 finish last year and continuously looked like she’d make progress this year, only to have it snatched away by shortened special stages, also seems to be going through tough times. She managed to injure her collarbone yesterday, and is also battling the flu, but at least she’s able to press on for now.
But on a happier note: At the start of the race, we told you about Sylvain Espinasse, a bold Frenchman who decided to show up this year on a two-stroke 125 cc Husqvarna. Against all odds, Espinasse is still in the fight, although it hasn’t been easy: It took him 21 hours, 56 minutes, and five seconds to finish Stage 11.
Today’s stage is 931 km long, and the special stage for motorcycles is over half that length — at least, until the organization shortens it again.
Dakar Stage 11 results
- Meo (KTM) 05:19:08
- Price (KTM) 05:19:26 (+00:00:18)
- Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 05:21:56 (+00:02:48)
- Rodrigues (Yamaha) 05:25:10 (+00:06:02)
- Van Beveren (Yamaha) 05:31:17 (+00:12:09)
- Svitko (KTM) 05:31:37 (+00:12:29)
- Blythe (KTM) 05:40:36 (+00:21:28)
- Viladoms (KTM)) 05:44:37 (+00:25:29)
- Farres (KTM) 05:46:15 (+00:27:07)
- Price (KTM) 40:08:30
- Svitko (KTM) 40:43:53 (+00:35:23) (00:01:00 penalty)
- Meo (KTM) 40:52:16 (+00:43:46)
- Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 40:53:49 (+00:45:19)
- Benavides (Honda) 41:05:35 (+00:57:05)
- Van Beveren (Yamaha) 41:42:16 (+01:33:46)
- Brabec (Honda) 41:48:25 (+01:39:55)
- Farres (KTM) 41:50:28 (+01:41:58)
- Monleon (KTM) 43:18:14 (+03:09:44)