Toby Price claims stage 13 win at Dakar 2018
Toby Price has won the penultimate stage of the 2018 Dakar Rally. His victory ensures he maintains his third-place position in the provisional overall standings, just over five minutes behind the runner-up. Third on today’s stage, Antoine Meo moves up to fourth overall. Matthias Walkner, who rode to a safe fourth place today, retains his lead in the overall rankings.
The longest of the rally, stage 13 proved a real test for the competitors. Comprising 483km of liaison with a two-part 424km timed special, the day required supreme endurance from the riders in order to get to the finish both quickly and safely. With the route including a difficult mixture of terrain, riders had to decide whether to push or play it safe.
One rider who had little choice but to push was Toby Price. After losing time on stage 10 through a navigation error, Price had to take every opportunity he could to make up time on the leaders. With today’s win, Price closes in on second-placed Kevin Benavides, but still trails his team-mate and leader of the rally Matthias Walkner by over 27 minutes with one stage remaining.
Toby Price: “That was a great stage, I was leading from the front and it was really good fun. The tracks were fast, and rough in places so I pushed on as much as I could in those sections. Navigation wasn’t too difficult today, I made a couple of mistakes along the way but nothing huge. There were a lot of speed zones so you had to be careful not to overdo it there, but I did what I set out to do and won the stage. It would have been nice to take a little bit more time off Kevin (Benavides) in front, but there’s still one day left. If you’d told me six weeks ago I’d be here fighting for the podium I would have laughed at you. I’m really happy with how things have gone so far and I’ll see what I can do tomorrow.”
After leading the stage early on, Antoine Meo was in a close battle for the runner-up position for the rest of the stage. Finally crossing the line in third place, Meo was pleased with his result. The Frenchman now moves up to fourth in the provisional standings, 50 minutes down on the leader.
Antoine Meo: “Today’s stage was good fun. I tried everything I could to catch Toby, but he was on the gas today. The last part of the stage was really fast and I eased off a little because a mistake there could have been very scary. I’m happy with how the day went, the result moves me up to fourth in the standings and that is what I was aiming for today. Now we just have one more day to ride so I’ll do my best and hopefully get a good, safe finish.”
Matthias Walkner continues to ride in the style that has placed him in a commanding lead at the top of the standings – fast, consistent and with the minimum of mistakes. Walkner’s performance throughout the rally has been superb. Taking his time and concentrating on navigation, his fourth-place result from today sees the Austrian go into tomorrow’s final stage with a 22-minute lead over second placed Benavides. The former MX3 World Champion is now within sight of his first Dakar win.
Matthias Walkner: “That was a really long day today. The guys at the front are pushing really hard and I’m feeling a little nervous so my aim is just to take things steady and get to the line safely. It was a really fast stage and just a small mistake could cause a big crash. I have got a 20-minute gap over the guys behind but even that amount of time can disappear easily if you get lost or have a problem with the bike. Tomorrow we still have 120km to race and anything can happen. I’ll start thinking about the win when I eventually cross the finish line tomorrow.”
Setting off 18th this morning, Laia Sanz immediately fought her way up to 13th place at the first waypoint. Laia carried that position right to the end of the 424km special and by doing so also improved her ranking in the overall to 12th. With just one stage left to ride, Laia is head and shoulders above the rest of the female competitors and will be trying her best to claim a top-10 position overall.
Laia Sanz: “I had a good day today. The start of the stage was really tough, the sand was extremely soft and there were a lot of whoops - I found that really hard on my body, especially after having a couple of crashes recently. The second half of the day was a lot better, it was very fast but easier to push so I kept to a good safe pace and made it to the finish without any mistakes. Tomorrow I will try to stay safe and hopefully enjoy the final stage of the rally.”
Tomorrow’s stage 14 marks the end of the 2018 Dakar Rally. Although short at only 286km in total, the stage will still prove difficult for competitors. With a technical timed special crossing approximately 30 rivers on route, the stage could still turn in a few surprises for the top runners. Riders will have to focus right till the finish line if they are to successfully complete this 40th edition of the rally.