Fabrizio Meoni has proven his worth! Keeping in mind to attack the overall standings, the desert fox had started on the first part of the marathon stage on Thursday morning. He rode his bike smartly and was easy on his equipment. As we all know...
Fabrizio Meoni has proven his worth! Keeping in mind to attack the overall standings, the desert fox had started on the first part of the marathon stage on Thursday morning. He rode his bike smartly and was easy on his equipment. As we all know the second part of the marathon stage was cancelled yesterday. Thus, Fabrizio postponed his attack until today. The result: stage victory! He even managed a time margin that helped the Italian matador clinch the overall lead. Fabrizio was thus able to gain a bit over 10 minutes on yesterday's leaders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres. Quite satisfied the Italian strolled to take a shower shortly after arriving (the first in days)...
Isidre Esteve Pujol was quickest over the stage. He, just like Meoni, is driven by a dream -- a Dakar victory. "I am glad to have won the stage. But I'm even more excited that I was able to gain a few minutes. I am now one of the top riders and I was hoping to accomplish that before the rest day. I didn't plan on being in the lead, but I didn't want to be too far away from it either." The Spaniard claims a 6th place in the overall with a time margin of just about 9 minutes. On Monday Isidre will continue his chase for the leadership. The Spaniard believes that the second Dakar week is going to be even tougher than the first one. "The fight for the victory is entering a decisive phase. I have five KTM professionals ahead of me. I'm expecting anyone of them to win. It is going to become a tough race, "he claims. When talking about competition between the teams one should not forget about the Frenchman David Fretigné. The Yamaha motorcyclist ranks about 15 minutes behind Meoni. He could be the only reason that a 5th KTM victory becomes impossible.
Marc Coma lost his leading position in the overall standings today. The young Spaniard seemed to have been expecting something was off when left the bivouac in Tidjikja this morning. "I'm feeling really tired today -- physical as well as mental. I didn't get much rest during the previous days. And today one needs to be extremely concentrated." During the stage Marc's tripmaster failed and he thought it best to keep to a group. His summary after the stage: "It was difficult today and one had to pay much attention to find the accurate way. The dunes at the end cost a lot of energy; the sand was extremely soft."
In the same group as Marc Coma were Cyril Despres, Alfie Cox, Andy Caldecott and David Fretigné. At least until CP 1. After another 30 km the Yamaha rider left the group. As they were to find out later, he had found the appropriate route. The four KTM teammates had made a mistake in their navigation and had to run back part of the way. They lost about four minutes. Cyril Despres was definitely mad about the faux pas. After reaching the bivouac, he did not want to answer any more questions about the how and why. His attack on the leadership has gone amiss today.
Andy Caldecott has done surprisingly well in the race. The Australian clinched a 4th place today and is in 3rd in the overall. Thus, he is ahead of several established KTM factory pilots. "It is a comfortable feeling to have arrived in Atar and to be healthy. Last year after this stage I had to pay the doctors a visit because my hand was broken. I'm more than satisfied with this year's race. Everything runs well. Although I got to admit that it was incredible strenuous today. We had to navigate a lot and the sand in the last stretch was unbelievably soft."
At the moment the sky turns dark in Atar. It seems that the sandstorm is following the rally.
Tomorrow's rest day is long expected from many. However "rest day" is not exactly correct. By no means will this be a full day of rest for the teams -- but hopefully a peaceful day. There is much to do. We'll tell you more about it tomorrow from the bivouac.