A French triumph after pacing across the vast number of dunes We want to offer our respect for anyone who has reached the finish at Atar or is still to reach it throughout the night. On a day like this everyone is a hero. The stage was extremely...
A French triumph after pacing across the vast number of dunes
We want to offer our respect for anyone who has reached the finish at Atar or is still to reach it throughout the night. On a day like this everyone is a hero. The stage was extremely tough on the riders and tortured them beyond thought. And it was a stage that would ask its due. Fabrizio Meoni probably lost his chances for the title after a serious tire problem had stopped him. Isidre Esteve severely damaged his bike after a crash. Richard Sainct finished the stage with some painful backache. Jean Brucy fell as well... At the finish Alfie Cox mentioned tonight, "I suspect that half of the drivers will drop out today. This stage was extremely tough" And crossing the 150-km-wide field of dunes in darkness is almost impossible."
The Erg Oumaghawaba, already known for the trouble it causes, has decided about the outcome of the stage. Its rim of the dunes are not really all that large, only about 10 to 30 meters, but they are facing in a direction that hides whatever looms behind them to the riders. The dunes are built like combs in the landscape. Therefore, one won't find regular crossings or times to rest. Instead the drivers have to strain and concentrate without end on the 150 km run. The field lay at the end of the already long stage.
Of all people the hurting Richard Sainct mastered the difficulties best. "I'm back," gladly exclaims the triple-champion of the Dakar rally. "The days after my injury I rode above my limits, only to keep up with the others. Now I'm motivated for the rest of the Dakar rally. I hope I won't have to pay the price for today's stage sometime later along the race. At the moment a terrible backache is bothering me."
Ralf Pariasek, physiotherapist, faces a lot of work. Every one of the riders turned to him looking for help after reaching the bivouac. Jean Brucy, second today, came to him as well, "It is especially my fingers and legs that hurt. This long stage was brutally tough. I've crossed this stage four times already. And I get the feeling that it gets tougher each time. Today I followed Cyril for a while. But he was too fast for me. And I fell as well. My handlebars were bent and I got bruised as well. At first I thought a vertebra was broken. Luckily I could go on."
Cyril Despres managed a 3rd position in today's standings. He rode at a fast but balanced pace. With that he now leads the overalls. "I could have been 5 to 10 minutes faster. Unfortunately, I have lost the right track about 130 km along the way and needed some time to get back on it again. Too bad. Now I'm just glad to be here at the bivouac. To get some rest is the only thing important today.
That Fabrizio Meoni gets some sleep soon can surely be doubted. The Italian lost about two hours after some serious tire problems. At the bivouac one could tell that he was mad and silent. "Not a pleasant day for me," was all he wanted to tell. Alfie Cox told us that he wanted to help out with a tube for his tire at kilometer 600, but it was also broken. He had probably grazed during the long ride. It had been lying at the cockpit. Finally, the French private rider, David Casteu, helped out. Unfortunately, his tube was punctured about 80 km in front of the finish. It just wasn't a pleasant day.
Isidre Esteve had a bad one as well. Due to a crash he lost his navigation system. Apparently however, his Rally 660 had suffered worse damage then it was assumed at first. He had to stop his run about 50 kilometers away from the finish line. At the moment the fast mechanics from the KTM assistance truck take a look at his motorbike. They feverishly try to get it working again. We hope Isidre soon reaches the finish.
This 7th stage mixed up the overalls thoroughly. Now Cyril Despres leads ahead of Nani Roma and Richard Sainct.
Tomorrow won't be a day for relaxation. The stage from Atar towards Tidjikja leads the rally crews through sections where they have never been before. Competitors familiar with navigating will have it easier to find the hidden passes and favorable entrances into the field of dunes. The 8th special is 355 km long.