Stage 10, another one with a strong flavour of sand and fesh-fesh, saw Spaniard Joan Barreda take his fourth stage win in 2014 ahead of Hélder Rodrigues and Cyril Despres. After starting first this morning, overall leader spent all day long keeping the gaps within acceptable limits, conceding 11'26″ to his closest pursuer but retaining a 44'10″ buffer. In the car category, Nasser Al-Attiyah took his second win this year, but Peterhansel was the big winner of the day, as he took back almost 10 minutes from Nani Roma, closing in to within just 2'15″ of the overall leader.
Yesterday's 15-minute penalty for speeding has not shaken Joan Barreda's belief in his chances of winning, as he showed in the 688 km stage 10 from Iquique to Antofagasta. The Honda rider, who had started the first of today's two specials in tenth place, used his ideal position on the course to follow the tracks of the preceding riders and really hit the gas throughout the stage. By the end of the day he had overtaken six motorcycles on the course and taken his ninth Dakar win, 8'00″ ahead of Portuguese teammate Hélder Rodrigues and 9'40″ ahead of Cyril Despres. The defending champion was second off the start line and quickly caught up with yesterday's winner Marc Coma. It was the perfect wheel for the overall leader to follow, who limited himself to following his former "best enemy" to ride at a high pace but without taking risks and post the fifth best time in today's stage, 11'26″ behind Barreda.
No reason for Coma to panic, though, as he still commands a 44'10″ lead over Barreda and a margin of over 2 h over his lieutenant Jordi Viladoms, who was also handed a 15-minute penalty yesterday, albeit for an engine change. While Cyril Despres continues to move up the pecking order and now sits in sixth place, today's bad news came from Chile's Jeremías Israel Esquerre, who had to drop out due to a fall, relinquishing his fourth place in the general classification to Olivier Pain, fourth today. The battle for the bottom step of the podium promises to be an epic one, with Pain, Rodrigues, Despres and Poland's Przygoński within just 13'03″.
Although the duel between Sergio Lafuente and Ignacio Casale made sparks fly in the quad race, just like yesterday with Sebastian Husseini, a rider with no prospects for the overall took the stage win. Russia's Sergey Karyakin was the fastest across the line in Antofagasta, but it was Casale's fighting spirit that marked the stage. The young Chilean mounted a robust defence against the onslaught of Uruguay's Lafuente and, just like yesterday, came out of the fight with an increased gap over his closest pursuer. Sergio Lafuente was second at 22'39″ yesterday in Iquique and, although he remains second, he now has 24'38″ to make up. Rafał Sonik, unable to keep up with the leading duo, seems to have switched to defending his bottom podium place.
"Peter" up, Roma down, Sainz out
In the car category, stage 10 was marred by the withdrawal of Spaniard Carlos Sainz after his car veered off track in the neutralised sector linking today's two timed sections. However, it was the sporting developments during today's stage that could very well make it a turning point in the 2014 edition. Having lost over 11 minutes to Stéphane yesterday, overall leader Nani Roma blew up again today, losing 9'55″ to the man from Vesoul.
The psychological pressure exerted over the last two days by Stéphane Peterhansel, as fearsome as ever when racing from behind, was as big a factor as Roma getting stuck atop a dune during the first special and suffering a puncture during the second one. After starting the stage in first place, "Monsieur Dakar" spent all day long in full attack mode, setting a blistering pace that only Nasser Al-Attiyah was able to follow. The Qatari driver, still on the hunt for a podium place, used the tracks left by "Peter" at the beginning of the course before finally overtaking him shortly before the finish. Al-Attiyah grabbed his 19th Dakar stage win with 3'50″ to spare on the two-time champion and 13'45″ on Nani Roma. Most importantly, he gained 28'15″ on Giniel de Villiers and 33'48″ on Orlando Terranova, who lost over half an hour when he got stuck on a dune towards the beginning of the stage.
Today's frantic stage shook up the general classification, where Nani Roma's lead has dwindled to just 2'15″ over Stéphane Peterhansel. Nasser Al-Attiyah, on the other hand, climbed to third place, 46'01″ behind the leader but 28'15″ ahead of De Villiers and 28'35″ ahead of Argentina's Terranova. A three-way tussle that promises to light the fireworks all the way to Valparaíso.
The truck classification is also up for grabs after stage 10 saw Czech Aleš Loprais open his 2014 account and, even more importantly, Andrey Karginov gain some more time on Gerard de Rooy. The Russian driver finished second, 37″ behind the Tatra but 5'33″ ahead of the Dutchman, who came in third. De Rooy, less at ease on sand than the Kamazes, goes into stage 11 on the dunes of Copiapó as the overall leader, but with just 7'55″ over Karginov. Tomorrow could be decisive.