Antoine Meo topped the shortened sixth stage of the 2018 Dakar Rally's bike class by half a minute as Honda's Kevin Benavides became the new leader of the category.
Due to poor weather conditions, the first 119 kilometres of the timed special, which saw the field move from Peru to Bolivia, were cancelled for the bike class.
As a result, the field started their respective competitive runs near Lake Titicaca and the remaining 194 kilometres saw an extremely closely-matched fight for victory on the last stage before the rest day.
Xavier de Soultrait’s lead was only two and 38 seconds at the first two respective waypoints, before Toby Price took over, but the 2016 champion’s advantage was also only 6s at the penultimate timing spot.
In the end, it was Meo who recorded the fastest time, the former enduro star claiming his third Dakar stage win by half a minute.
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Price and Benavides set identical stage times half a minute behind him, with Benavides becoming the new overall leader as Adrien van Beveren, who only had a one-minute lead before Stage 6, was 3m27s off the pace.
The Yamaha rider is now 1m57s behind Benavides, who became the fourth different overall leader of the class in the 2018 race.
Matthias Walkner continues to shadow the duo in third, the Austrian going narrowly faster than van Beveren in the stage.
Dominant Stage 5 winner Joan Barreda, who had to open the road, switched positions with de Soultrait in the overall classification, slipping down to fifth behind the Frenchman.
Price is only six seconds away in sixth with his teammate Meo and Husqvarna's Pablo Quintanilla, who had a fall on Stage 5, completing the top eight.
Gonzalez tops quad class, Casale extends lead
Jeremias Gonzalez completed an all-Argentinian top two in the quad class, which also run on the shortened version of Stage 6.
Gonzalez, runner-up in 2015, collected the second stage win of his career, beating Pablo Copetti by 1m50s.
Pablo Casale was best of the rest in third, three minutes slower than Gonzalez, and increased his overall lead to 41 minutes as closest rival Alexis Hernandez was fourth in the stage.
Standings after Stage 6 (Top 10, Bike class)
|2||Adrien van Beveren||Yamaha||1m57s|
|4||Xavier de Soultrait||Yamaha||9m24s|