Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) opened the course today, but Honda’s Joan Barreda Bort was the hard-charging winner, and for good reason. He knew that, to get on the podium, he’d have to battle his way past Toby Price (KTM). With only two stages left after today, there wasn’t much time to move forward.
Somewhat surprisingly, his teammate Ricky Brabec was second on the day. The smart play here for Brabec is to nurse his lead for the final stages, preserving himself and his bike for the win. But Brabec is still pushing hard.
It’s just another aspect of the hidden side of the Dakar Rally, the mental game. To win, you’ve also got to have your brain rolling in high gear, and it’s easier for Brabec to continue going all-out than it is to hold back in the final miles.
Today was the first day of the marathon stage, and it’s probably going to be the ultimate test of the Hondas. If the machines can all make it to the end of Stage 11 with no problems, you can bet Big Red’s team is going to breathe a massive sigh of relief.
But, it sounds as if Brabec is pretty chill about the whole thing anyway, as he was going on today about how relaxing the marathon stage was, because there’s no support staff to deal with at the end of the day, just riders. That’s the sound of a man who’s supremely confident in his motorcycle.
The stage was actually shortened today, with only a 222-km special. The change came as the safety helicopters were unable to battle the wind storms. The shorter length probably helped ease the mind of the Honda team as well.
In the past couple of stages, Price hasn’t seemed as aggressive, perhaps an indication that his mind is elsewhere after being first-on-scene after Paulo Goncalves’ fatal crash.
Or, it could just be the length of the rally wearing him down. Some of the other riders with smaller support teams are looking absolutely wiped at days’ end. Even the factory riders don’t have it easy; KTM’s Matthias Walkner has been riding sick all week, with some sort of head cold or flu. No matter how hard you prepare for this race, all it takes is a few days’ riding to wear you down and bam, you’re ill, and unable to push your hardest. The desert is a tough opponent, but so is the human body when it turns against you.
2020 Dakar Rally Stage 10 results
1. Joan Barreda Bort, Honda
2. Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:01:07
3. Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:02:31
4. Toby Price, KTM, + 00:02:57
5. Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:04:14
6. Rodney Faggotter, Yamaha Australia, + 00:04:30
7. Jamie McCanney, Yamaha, + 00:04:30
8. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:05:23
9. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:05:58
10: Ross Branch, BAS Dakar, + 00:08:45
1. Ricky Brabec, Honda
2. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:25:44
3. Joan Barreda Bort, + 00:27:09
4. Toby Price, KTM, + 00:28:33 (00:02:00 penalty)
5. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:41:31 (00:01:00 penalty)
6. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:41:32
7. Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:44:18
8. Skyler Howers, Klymciw, + 01:43:21
9. Franco Caimi, Yamaha, + 01:43:57 (00:05:00 penalty)
10. Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 02:02:10