LAST DAY, BLACK DAY
After 9605 km, the Dakar 2011 is back to Buenos Aires. The last stage was the hardest for Aprilia Giofil Team. Francisco Lopez watches how his virtual podium fades away while Alain Duclos receives a huge penalty after yesterday's mistake. It's just the Dakar's law.
BUENOS AIRES -- The Dakar 2011 is never over until the finish line of the last stage. It was going to be a long day of riding; 826 km from Cordoba to San Juan, but the last timed section, of only 181 were supposed to be just a formality for "Chaleco" Lopez and Aprilia before reaching the podium. It became the worst nightmare ever, and not only for him.
Francisco Lopez started this morning with a comfortable advantage to keep his third place overall. His closest rival, Helder Rodrigues, was 43 minutes behind the Chilean, but a broken rear suspension at km 159 took away his hopes to climb on the podium for the second year in a row.
His team mates Duclos, Farres and Zanotti helped him on the road, first changing the tire that was totally destroyed, and then, they found a solution for the suspension, but at the end, he was pulled by Alain Duclos in order to finish the stage. Lopez completed the special stage one hour from the leaders, losing his virtual third place overall to Helder Rodrigues.
Francisco Lopez was destroyed at the finish. Not only physically, but morally, after his hopes of victory went away. He can only be happy to have been one of the main characters of this Dakar from the beginning until the end. The Chilean rider was the only one to get in the fight of the two leaders, Marc Coma and Cyril Despres, as another champion.
Alain Duclos started aiming to be among the top 10, but Daka 2011 was the race where everything happened to him. A fall, navigation mistakes and time penalties took his possibilities away. No doubt, the hardest was to receive the time penalty for yesterday's mistake, 12h for the missing way points. Nevertheless, the French-Malian rider takes this experience as a way to grow up and come back in better shape next year.
Gerard Farr0x00e9s carried out the perfect performance of a water carrier all along the race. The Spanish finished the Dakar with even one stage in the 5th place. The Spanish rider keeps showing his potential on the bike and takes the 28th position overall.
Alex Zanotti promised to take the Aprilia Tuareg "Light" to the finish and so he did. Despite of all problems encountered through the race that delayed him from the top positions, the Italian managed to take the bike and finishes the Dakar in the 33th place, and is the best among the riders of his country.
The team is visibly disappointed with the outcome of this last stage, even though Aprila Giofil team, headed by Filippo Assirelli, can be proud to have been present at the Dakar 2011 with 5 official riders, 8 clients and not a single abandon due to mechanical problem, a positive sign of the potential of the Aprilia Tuareg 4.5 in long rally raid races like the Dakar.
Tomorrow, Buenos Aires waits for the big last show. All competitors will cross the podium to celebrate the end of Dakar 2011, hoping to be back next year for a Dakar that promises to go even further north than this year. Peru might join Argentina and Chile for the last edition.
Francisco Lopez: "It was unbelievable. Thirty kilometers before the finish and the suspension link was broken, and I crossed the line pulled by Alain Duclos. These are things that happen in the Dakar. Now, we have to forget it and focus in the evolution of the bike and what we can do next year."
-source: Team Giofil Aprilia Racing