Quintanilla second overall after Dakar stage four

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Quintanilla said it had been a tough day in high altitude, and tackling the soft dunes in Bolivia.

“We began with the dunes and at altitude and this affected both us and the bikes. I made a small mistake trying to find a visible feature in the vegetation at the end of the dunes but after that, I felt good. I rode all day alone and I think the feeling is better than yesterday, so it was a good stage for me.” Asked how he was feeling physically, the Chilean rider replied: “At the moment I’m feeling good. I had a little headache at the end of the stage but that’s normal with the altitude and trying to go fast. It seems like from yesterday until we leave Bolivia, it will be difficult navigation so we need to stay focused and try to be consistent. Tomorrow we have another long stage and I see we have some difficult off-piste parts so I will try to do a good stage.”

Factory teammate Pela Renet followed up on his third place finish in Wednesday’s stage three with another confidence boosting ride to finish eighth. He finished 12.30 minutes behind stage winner Matthias Walkner of Austria.

Renet: “I started in third this morning and some of the others got lost, so I only had one line in front of me. I rode all day alone and Pablo caught me not far from the end of the stage. I’m really happy with my position. The goal is clear, that’s to be at the end and not take too many risks. But that’s not easy because when you are on the bike you always want to give a bit more gas. I try to stay calm.” The French rider has been consistently solid with his navigation and confirmed studied the road book and his notes carefully. “I really take my time at the tricky places to really check my road book and my notes. At the moment that’s working well, so I will continue like this,” he said.

Stage four was clearly another brutal test for both rider and machine. Now continually at altitudes above 3500 meters, riders had to tackle 521 km on the bike, including an energy robbing 416 km timed special. The field, which started the day with 126 of the original 146 riders still in the race, had the new experience of negotiating sand dunes at altitude. In previous editions of the South American Dakar they have encountered dunes in Chile’s legendary coastal Atacama Desert. The stage also saw the exit of reigning champion Toby Price of Australia who crashed a few kilometres short of the end of the special and fractured his leg.

Thursday was also the day riders crossed the border from Argentina into Bolivia, on their way to La Paz, the most northern point in this edition. Friday they continue onto Oruro, a stage or 786 km, with another massive 527 km making up the timed special. The stage goes across the Bolivian Altiplano with a whole range of mixed terrain. It will be another long day at altitudes over 3500 meters, which will continue to sap riders’ energy. The rally’s one rest day is Sunday in La Paz.