Joan Barreda has done it again.
Honda’s star factory rider looked like finally, finally, he was going to put in a decent Dakar race, probably finish on the podium or just off it, and he even had an outside chance at the overall win. It would have been a stark contrast to other years, where he’s had massive parts-sale crashes, even riding off a cliff into a ravine one year, having to abandon his bike and the race. No, everything looked nice and smooth for 2021! Maybe he’d leave the Bam Bam nickname behind?
Then, in Stage 11, he inexplicably blew past a fuelling stop in the desert, and ended up stranded in No Man’s Land, out of gas. It looked like he was going to continue the race, but basically in last place, as he’d need a tow to the next fueling station, and the organizers probably would have slapped him with major penalties as well (although, if you read the rulebook carefully, it seems fuel stops are up to the rider’s discretion …).
The lost time and penalties don’t matter now, because after coming to a standstill thanks to his empty fuel tank, Barreda ended up calling for medical evacuation. Doctors are checking him out now. He says it’s a result of his crash earlier in the race.
Really, you have to feel sorry for the guy. He’s blazing-fast; a bit weak on navigation, maybe, but he’s won more stages outright than any other current Dakar rider. And yet, when he was in his prime, the Honda team had some serious organizational issues, and their bikes were crap. Now that the team and the bikes are solid, Barreda is probably going to end up pushed off the team due to injuries. He’s already talked about retirement, and that talk will likely ramp up after this rally.
Barreda said he’d banged his head badly in earlier stages this year. Judging by his incredible tactical error in Stage 11, there’s a very good chance he banged his head again, or he’s suffering from post-concussion syndrome or some other side effect from the earlier bumps.
At stage’s end, KTM’s Sam Sunderland was the winner, followed by Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna), who’s been all but invisible this year. Honda’s Kevin Benavides was third.
Some other drama related to this crash: As you can see above, Matthias Walkner (KTM) said Barreda’s blow-by of the refuelling point was some sort of strategy, which didn’t sit well with Honda’s team. Ricky Brabec was especially sour about it, and had no trouble saying so. It’s unusual for the top riders to be angry with each other, as there’s usually utmost respect between the leaders, and no doubt this will blow over in the end.
Down to the wire
So now we’ve got a very interesting stage setup for tomorrow. Stage 11 was shortened after weather made a mess of some of the course, and there are mutterings that weather might have an influence tomorrow as well, with rain on the forecast.
Sunderland’s win today did him no favours. True, he needed to make up time against the front-running Hondas, but now he has to make up more time tomorrow, as he’s still behind Kevin Benavides (Honda) in the standings. Can Sunderland cut away at Benavides’ lead, while opening navigation at the same time? Probably not.
Instead, it’s more likely that Ricky Brabec will make up time against both Benavides and Sunderland tomorrow. He’s currently in third, and will be able to follow Benavides and Sunderland’s tracks tomorrow.
Whatever happens, this is setting up to be a full-length battle, not a short parade stage, and it should be fun to see the results.
Dakar, Stage 11 rankings
- Sam Sunderland, KTM, 04H 35′ 12”
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, 04H 37′ 52” (+ 00H 02′ 40”)
- Kevin Benavides, Husqvarna, 04H 41′ 36” (+ 00H 06′ 24”)
- Daniel Sanders, KTM, 04H 43′ 46” (+ 00H 08′ 34”)
- Matthias Walkner, KTM, 04H 44′ 39” (+ 00H 09′ 27” )
- Ricky Brabec, Honda, 04H 47′ 58” (+ 00H 12′ 46”)
- Lorenzo Santolino, Sherco, 04H 50′ 21” (+ 00H 15′ 09” )
- Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, 04H 51′ 57′ (+ 00H 16′ 45” )
- Oriol Mena, Rieja, 04H 53′ 27” (+ 00H 18′ 15”)
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, 04H 55′ 00” (+ 00H 19′ 48” ) (00H 02′ 00” penalty)
Dakar, overall rankings
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, 45H 01′ 44” (00H 02′ 00” penalty)
- Sam Sunderland, KTM, 45H 05′ 56” (+ 00H 04′ 12” )
- Ricky Brabec, Honda, 45H 08′ 57” (+ 00H 07′ 13”)
- Daniel Sanders, KTM, 45H 34′ 49” (+ 00H 33′ 05”) (00H 07′ 00” penalty)
- Skyler Howes, Bas Dakar, 45H 50′ 51” (+ 00H 49′ 07”) (00H 06′ 00” penalty)
- Lorenzo Santolino, Sherco, 45H 51′ 10” (+ 00H 49′ 26”)
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, 46H 02′ 02” (+ 01H 00′ 18”)
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, 46H 27′ 30” (+ 01H 25′ 46”) (00H 20′ 00” penalty)
- Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, 46H 28′ 24” (+ 01H 26′ 40”)
- Martin Michek, Orion, 47H 16′ 39” (+ 02H 14′ 55”) ( 00H 03′ 00”)