Interview: Isidre Esteve takes up the fiight of the Dakar again Despite some initial problems, the Spanish rider reaches the rest day as fifth overall and with chances for the final victory. After a race start filled with misfortunes that took...
Interview: Isidre Esteve takes up the fiight of the Dakar again
Despite some initial problems, the Spanish rider reaches the rest day as fifth overall and with chances for the final victory.
After a race start filled with misfortunes that took him to be more than 18 minutes behind the leader, the Repsol rider took the victory of the Tidjikja-Atar stage. That sent him up to fifth overall at the rest stage, eight minutes behind leader Meoni, among the top group and with chances for the final victory. There are many kilometres left to be raced and several obstacles to overcome, but Esteve feels calm and with confidence after getting over this critical moment.
What can you tell us about the first half of the race?
"I think that we had a quite different first half than the cars; the bikes just dedicated themselves to control the race without having too many problems. The overall standings look quite good, we are a group of eight riders separated by less than 20 minutes. The real race will start for us now."
How do you see your rivals?
"From all of them, I think that there's only one rider setting the difference, Meoni. Only because he already knows what it means to win the Dakar. From all the others, Caldecott, Fretigne, Marc, Desprès, Ullevalseter, and myself... we are young riders eager to do a good job and win. I think that this fact turns this race into a very open and interesting race, where anybody can win a stage and even the race. I hope it continues like this until the end."
Are you worried about Cyril Desprès?
"Not more than about the rest. As I said, the only one I see different than the rest is Meoni. Desprès is a young rider, eager to win, with more or less the same experience and the same bike as ours. I think the only difference is our sponsor."
How do you see your team-mate Marc Coma?
"Excellent, congratulations. He's done a very good first part of the race, without mistakes and without problems. He's done a great job and he's there, in the front."
Are you surprised about Caldecott's performance?
"No; in fact, last year, while I was leading the Dakar during the first week, he was there with me. He had bad luck; his foot got stuck in a dune and broke. He did a good job last year and this year he's nothing but ratifying his competitiveness."
You've been forced to overcome a very hard psychological moment in this edition, how did you do it?
"I've had some problem on every day of the first week, making me lose some time. It seemed as if there would be no day on which things would go well. When I arrived in Tichit, 19 minutes behind the lead I felt really bad. I had run out of fuel and I had lost almost 10 minutes until Gio Sala arrived. So many things happened that I ended-up feeling a bit down. But on the other hand I knew that it is a long race and that there were several things yet to happen. I was sure that everything would sort out and that the good times would be back. In fact, yesterday I took the stage victory and that allowed me not only to regain confidence but also, to move up in the overall standings with a good position before the second half."
From the stages ahead, where do you think you can take some advantage?
"This first stage will be a bit difficult for me, because I'll have to open the way, but I'm confident, everything will work out fine. I think that the first three stages after the rest day will set the difference. Every rider will try to give his best in order to set a difference before entering the Savannah and Senegal."
What has been the best so far?
"Winning the stage, with no doubt. Winning is always wonderful because it's the reflection of all the work done."
And the worst?
"Running out of fuel. It made me lose a lot of time and I felt so helpless. I was 15 km from the finish line and I got stuck. But I was really lucky; Sala wasn't far away and he saw me immediately. He also had little fuel so we couldn't only take off one tank; we also had to remove the two on the rear side. From then on we both had to ride slowly to the finish, because we could not run out of fuel again, Gio had nothing left to give me..."