Alfie Cox makes up 18 position in the real stuff South Africa's Gauloises KTM Factory motorcyclist, Alfie Cox, moved up 18 places in the overall standings during the 5th stage of the 2005 TelefÃ³nica Dakar race. This was the first real test for...
Alfie Cox makes up 18 position in the real stuff
South Africa's Gauloises KTM Factory motorcyclist, Alfie Cox, moved up 18 places in the overall standings during the 5th stage of the 2005 Telefónica Dakar race. This was the first real test for the motorcycle competitors and it proved too much for some. KTM works rider, Jordi Duran, had a big crash at the 100 km mark. The Spaniard who turned 25 on the 2nd of December has retired from the Dakar after breaking his shoulder and femur during the fall, whilst 22 year old American, Kellon Walch, who celebrated his birthday on the 2nd of January finished 47th, loosing a lot of following his accident.
Cox was clearly relieved at today's finish: "I was still very worried at the start this morning, because I did not know what the injury from my first stage 'wake-up call' was going to do on a long and bumpy stage. I can still feel a bit of pain, but I can hardly believe it is the same shoulder as on the first day." The KTM physiotherapist believes that Cox's strong muscular upper body is the main cause for the quick recovery of his shoulder injury, because the muscles have taken over the function of the inflamed tendon.
"I am very shocked and disappointed about Jordi (Duran). At the 100 km mark, (where Duran crashed) a helicopter was tracking me and it was very difficult to concentrate in the rough and unforgiving terrain," said Cox
"Like today's winner, Andy Caldecott, I also felt at home with the stage reminding of places like the Tarkastad and Caledon races in South Africa with very rough patches opening up to high speed dusty stretches. The secret today was to go fast, but not to get a wheel off the main track, because a broken rim or buckled disc would cost you dearly. At the 178 km refuel point everyone's rear tyres were 75% worn. With about 200 km of special stage and 33 km of liaison left, we had just about no tread on our tyres," explained a clearly more relaxed Cox.
Today was physically and mentally tough on all the competitors; six time motorcycle and one time car winner of the Dakar, Frenchman, Stephane Peterhansel suffered three punctures on his Mitsubishi Evolution 3.
"At the 300 km mark the road opened up and the last 80 km home was absolutely flat-out," said Cox with the familiar adrenaline rush smile on his face.
New overall motorcycle leader, Marc Coma from Spain commented: "This first stage in Morocco was very dangerous, especially with the dust. You had to follow the road book very well, to avoid mistakes. I lost my friend Jordi (Duran) today. That's a shame for him, but for the team too because we all need each other to go to Dakar. Apart from that, I'm happy with my day. It was a very winding track, mentally demanding because of the many changes in rhythm. You had to focus all the way. After the refuel, Alfie caught me and we rode together to the finish line. The bike is perfect. Now, I took the leadership, but it's not so important because there's still a long way and many kilometres to Dakar. It is a great feeling to be the new race leader, even though I have not won a single stage until now."
Stage winner, 40 year old Andy Caldecott from Australia was very happy with his performance saying: "It's a very good day for me. There were so many rocks on the track and that was very tricky. So, I rode very carefully. I scared myself 2 or 3 times by going a little too fast in tight corners. I had no problem at all, but I prefer to be more careful. Then, on the second part of the stage I took good care of the tyres. I know this kind of track well because it's very similar to the ones I am used to in Australia. I had fun today."
Crossing into Mauritania from the Western Sahara region in Morocco, competitors will start riding at 05:00 and pass through the "frontier" where they have to be very careful to stay on track during the liaison stage to avoid landmines over the 121 km liaison stage tomorrow morning. This stage from Smara to Zouérat is traditionally known as the turning point in the Dakar and Alfie Cox expects riders like two times winner Fabrizio Méoni from Italy, who is currently placed sixth overall, to show their strength tomorrow.
The 492 km sand and dune special stage starts at 09:05 (11:05 SA time) for the motorcycles, with the front runners expected at the finish by 13:35, an expected average speed of 85 km/h. After the initial flat-out start on sandy tracks, the dune fields will test skill, reflex, concentration and perseverance.
With the newly implemented rules on marathon stages, tomorrow is the last high speed race day before two very long but much slower marathon days when the motorcycle competitors will not be able to swop wheels at the overnight stop. Tomorrow promises to be action packed.
-coen van zyl