Dakar: Alfie Cox stage 13 report

Cox now in third place Today, the motorcycles were back on the route, racing for the first time after Méoni's death. South Africa's Alfie Cox, member of the Gauloises KTM Team, had an excellent day moving up a place in the overall standings, ...

Cox now in third place

Today, the motorcycles were back on the route, racing for the first time after Méoni's death. South Africa's Alfie Cox, member of the Gauloises KTM Team, had an excellent day moving up a place in the overall standings, to third during today's 13th stage of the 2005 Telefónica Dakar race between Bamako and Kayes in Mali, known as Black Africa by the fraternity.

Alfie Cox couldn't believe it. He was happy with his third place, but not satisfied with the day's stage.. He could not settle into a rhythm. "There was one speed trap after the other," he claimed, "I constantly had to reduce speed so I wouldn't receive any penalties. There was no fun in this stage." Others shared the opinion of the Desert Fox.

Chris Blais, felt the same way. Although he was more than satisfied about his 3rd place in the stage, he nevertheless was mad about having to brake all the time. "I actually counted 30 speed traps today. We passed through many villages, but that was just too much. Accelerating and braking, accelerating and braking - continuously. It was really difficult to find a satisfying rhythm."

The Australian Andy Caldecott claimed stage honours today. But he also had to overcome an obstacle: "I hit a cow from behind. Luckily I just had a small off. I hope the cow is fine, too." Caldecott clinched his second stage win today." At the beginning I was pacing along," he claimed, "After the accident I reduced speed a little. I didn't want to risk too much. In all it was good that we had a day to rest yesterday. I must say, I was able to really concentrate on the track today."

Marc Coma felt similar. "Bit by bit I'm getting back into the racing. The stage required a lot of concentration," he explained, "I had to fully focus on my road book; there was no time for other thoughts today." Coma started in the first position this morning. He led the pack from the start to the finish. "To start off in first position this morning, took a lot of effort. But everything went well and I set a good pace. Only trouble was the large number of animals on the track - it was dangerous."

Cyril Despres had a wake-up call. "I did not see a large rock on the ground and I smashed my exhaust. I lost some time repairing the damage. I bent the exhaust with pliers so that the exhaust fumes could escape again. Afterwards I continued riding a bit more careful."

However, Cyril was fast enough to hold on to the overall lead. He has a 16'06 minute lead on Marc Coma. But the Spaniard has not yet given up his hopes for the victory. "Tomorrow will be another long day. Many things might happen," supposed Coma, "But if Cyril continues at the same pace it will become more and more difficult to overtake him." Alfie Cox, third overall is battling it out with Isidre Esteve Pujol for the third place on the podium. Isidre is only half a minute off the pace.

Thousands of kilometers away from Kayes a group of people assembled at the funeral of Fabrizio Meoni. The double Dakar champion was buried in his hometown Castiglion Fiorentino this afternoon. Stefan Pierer, head of KTM, and Heinz Kinigadner, head of sports at KTM, represented KTM at the funeral and paid their last respects to Fabrizio.

Comments from the bikers after today's stage:

Cyril Despres said: "The first 150 km were very fast, with villages, jumps and quite a lot to look out for on the road book. To be honest I found it quite difficult to concentrate and a bad stomach didn't help. The important thing today was just to get through it. We knew that over a narrow, dusty track, with lots of speed controls, nothing much would change as far as our positions were concerned. Although it was sometimes hard to keep my mind on the job, I don't regret my decision to continue."

Alfie Cox commented: "To race in Mali isn't very nice. There are too many people. Today, all we did is just go from one village to the other with the cruise control. It wasn't a nice day, because you couldn't overtake on the very narrow and dusty paths. In fact, it wasn't really a race today but just a little training session. It also wasn't a good day because it was too stressful for me as for all other the riders, I believe. With what happened to Fabrizio, we hadn't any motivation for racing and even for riding. I wasn't good on the bike, and I think it'll take time before we attack again. With all the thoughts that came to mind during the stage, it was impossible to ride properly, and stay focused. There's no more pressure, because nobody really wants to change the overall classification, the race is over. Now the main thing is to get to Dakar. Everybody has a strange taste in the mouth and the most important is to get to Dakar and see what should be changed for the future."

Tomorrow: Stage 14 - Kayes to Tambacounda
A 630 km stage including a special of 529 km from Sadiola, in Mali, where the stage turns South along the Senegalese border. Gradually, the track narrows, leading to a savannah landscape near Satadougou. Here the rally will cross the Falémé River, which in the memories of old hands remains a historical spot as it heralds the arrival of the rally in Senegal and the finish. On route to Tambacounda, the route alternates between bush landscape, the crossing of villages and fast sections through the rivers in Soninké country.

"This is the last opportunity that I have to ensure that I clinch a podium spot. It is a very long stage, similar to the Desert Race at home, but the dust and the towns along the way will again prevent settling into a rhythm. Esteve starts two places behind me, and if he manages to catch De Azavedo and I, he automatically moves ahead on the overall standings. So, my job is cut-out, I have to chase Blais and even Fretigne to stay ahead of Esidré. On such a long stage, anything can still happen," explained Cox on his tactics for tomorrow.

-cvz-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Fabrizio Meoni , Cyril Despres , Alfie Cox , Marc Coma , Isidre Esteve , Chris Blais , Andy Caldecott , Heinz Kinigadner