Troublesome stage for the Monster Energy Honda Team in Bolivia

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The trans-Andean country would appear to be jinxed for the Monster Energy Honda Team, who continued to have bad luck on a gloomy stage between Tupiza and Oruro. In spite of the setbacks, Paulo Gonçalves posted runner-up spot on the fifth day of racing.

First Joan Barreda and Michael Metge, then Ricky Brabec all went astray around kilometre 147 today, dropping precious time to rivals. The French rider managed to get back on the right track and limit the damage to some minutes. Barreda, meanwhile, frustratingly saw the front runners lengthen their lead over him.

The atrocious meteorological conditions that have been pounding the area over recent days finally forced race organizers to cut short the scheduled route. In the end, the timed special was fought out over a total of 219 kilometres.

At that point, the best of the Monster Energy Honda Team bunch was Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves who occupied the second step of the stage five podium.

In yesterday’s Rally Dakar 2017 fourth stage, race authorities hammered the team with a one hour sanction per rider for what the organization claims was “refuelling outside the authorized zone”. The indications which had been given during the rider and team’s briefing were not altogether clear and the team thought that they were at the organization’s refuelling as they entered Bolivia.

The penalization sees the riders sacrifice their top positions in the general standings. The squad’s leading rider is currently Paulo Gonçalves, tenth, followed by Joan Barreda. Michael Metge and Ricky Brabec are separated by three seconds in twentieth place.

Tomorrow, day six, is the final stage before the competition’s rest day on Sunday in La Paz. The stage runs from De Oruro to the Bolivian capital some 4,000 metres above sea-level and will feature the longest special of the Rally Dakar 2017 with 527 kilometres against the clock. The stage takes in the famous and much-venerated Lake Titicaca.