Dakar: Alfie Cox stage nine report

Cox exceptional in Dakar 2005 South Africa's Alfie Cox, racing for the Gauloises KTM team, again proved that he is one of the most consistent competitors in the motorcycle category of the 2005 Telefónica Dakar race. When comparing the ...

Cox exceptional in Dakar 2005

South Africa's Alfie Cox, racing for the Gauloises KTM team, again proved that he is one of the most consistent competitors in the motorcycle category of the 2005 Telefónica Dakar race. When comparing the starting positions and finishing times for the stage, Fretigne who started first of the top 7 riders, finished last, and Esteve Pujol who started last finished first.

Cox who started fourth finished fifth with only 40 seconds difference between him and the overall leader, through what is known as the leapfrogging in cross-country rallies. In the leapfrog process last night's leader, Coma (Spain) dropped back to fourth, whilst Méoni moved up from fifth to first place overall. More importantly, after the rest day, they will take off with two minute intervals led by Esteve Pujol (Spain), Méoni (Italy), Ullevalseter (Norway), Caldecott (Australia), Cox (South Africa), Sala (Italy), Despres (France). This will most probably result in Despres, Sala and Cox chasing the leaders, which could result in Méoni loosing as much as 10 minutes to Despres, who will take the overall lead with Cox potentially in third place, through leapfrogging the times.

The real-times of the top competitors passing the Start, CP1, CP2, and the Finish

Italy's Fabrizio Méoni, two times winner of the Dakar, was fuming at the finish this afternoon, saying: "I'm very angry. Now the navigation is not important on the Dakar Rally anymore. With the corridor rule (between GPS points), even the worst navigators are guaranteed to stay on the good track, because if you just leave that little corridor, the system shows you where to go to find it back. Of course, it's not good for me because navigation is my strong point, but it's not good for the show. For me the Dakar spirit is over. Anyway, the stage wasn't so bad for me. I joined the leading group after CP1, just before my trip system broke. I repaired it during the refuel. Of course I'm glad to take first position of the overall standings, even though I'm frustrated, because the rally is no longer what it was."

Strong winds and dust storms prevailed today during 361 km special stage between Tidjikja and Atâr, but everyone was happy to race again after the complete destruction of stage 7 and stage 8 being relegated to a liaison stage.

A touching story of a young Dutchman who retired last night, tells the tale of agony, fear and mental distress the competitors live through on the world's most arduous cross-country rally. Herwin Hoopmans called his girlfriend Natasja in Langenboom, Netherlands, today, to comfort her that he was safe and fine. The first time competitor telling her: "I never want to compete in this race again. It is simply to dangerous for me, not the riding and falling but the fear of cars and trucks around you and their intense dust."

"I can make every cut-off time on the route, the stages are not impossible to complete, but if you have a problem out there in the heart of the desert, it really makes you suffer. I spent the night sleeping next to someone who was becoming more and more paralyzed because of an injury, and that really scared me. It is not the riding of the rally that is so difficult, but what happens around you, that really breaks your spirit," he remarked.

In conclusion he said: "I am never going back to this race. It was always a great dream, now I know what it is like, I tried it and the realization of that dream will haunt me forever. You must be slightly crazy to compete in this rally."

All the more reason to really understand just how exceptional the KTM factory riders are on their 660 Rallye machines from Mattighoven in Austria, competing day after day, keeping focused and living through the mental strains that stop other competitors in their tracks. South Africa's Alfie Cox is one of the top five competitors in the Dakar and he surely proved that consistency that he is so well known for, thus far.

"A great stage, not much Camel grass, the pace was quick through the powder sand, but we all got together before CP1 and raced together up to the finish. The bikes are all equal, so it is impossible to pull away from the rest. I am satisfied with my performance today. Tomorrow we can take a break, recharge and prepare for the final onslaught on the final week to Lac Rose in Dakar," said a confident Cox at the finish.

Cyril Despres said: "Every day, on the starting line, I hope to do something different, but this year the race is very open.All my opponents are very strong. Normally, on the day rest, only 2 or 3 riders can still hope to win, but this year we're still 10! I remember the scrutineering in Barcelona, everybody said that I would win easily this year. Now, there's still a long way to go. Physically I feel fine and my bike has worked perfectly until now. I will ride at the maximum attack level and we'll see."

Tomorrow: Rest day in Atâr - Sunday 9th January 2005

Atâr, capital of the Adrar, was founded in the XVIIth Century by a tribe from Chinguetti. Progressively, it became an important strategic point and one of the main stages on the route through the Sahara. The town centre, lined with gardens and palm groves. But a little further on, the old town, built around winding alleyways, houses the market stalls of numerous artisans, set up around the place des Forgerons. Traditional products of the Adrar region can be found here: leather, rugs, silver jewellery, sandals.

After the well deserved break, the organizers two grueling days of racing and we look forward to seeing these extreme athletes show off just what they are made of.

-coen van zyl

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Fabrizio Meoni , Cyril Despres , Alfie Cox