The Dakar enters Bolivia with Paulo Gonçalves leading the race
All five Team HRC bikes made it through the marathon stage which started out in the Argentine city San Salvador de Jujuy and finished in Uyuni, Bolivia. Paulo Gonçalves remains at the head of the overall standings with Barreda fourth.
The good news is that for the first time since the Dakar 2016 began, riders were able to set off without waterproofs, the bad news was that another type of difficulty had replaced the bad weather: altitude. Today’s stage was battled out at average heights of over 3,500 metres above sea-level, enough to put the physiques of even the toughest riders to the test. To make matters worse, the recent days of easy navigating have come to an end and competitors can expect complications ahead. As is now habitual, the arrival of the entourage in Uyuni was nothing less than an all-out fiesta.
At the end of yesterday’s stage Joan Barreda had the rug pulled from under him with another sanction, this time a five minute penalty for breaking the speed limit in a radar control. Race officials ruled that the new stage four winner was Team HRC sidekick Paulo Gonçalves and awarded Honda man Kevin Benavides the runner-up spot. Today, the same pair suffered the handicap of having to open the field for 327 kilometres while the pursuing adversaries were able to follow the correct tracks already mapped out by the front-runners.
Joan Barreda, who set off from Jujuy in fourth starting position, was the best of the Team HRC bunch, conceding a total of 5’57 to the stage winner Toby Price. Portuguese rider Gonçalves, who was suffering from altitude sickness, likewise conceded 8’56 to finish in 12th.
Ricky Brabec and Michael Metge posted virtually identical times, finishing with a 14 minute deficit from the stage victor. Paolo Ceci came in thirty seconds after Metge.
Argentinean Kevin Benavides forges on as top rider of Honda South America Rally Team. Brazilian team-mate Jean Azevedo was forced to drop out of the race after stopping to help HSA Rally Team colleague Javier Pizzolito who had radiator issues. Azevedo had previously suffered a heavy fall in the first stage. Pizzolito finished the day in 40th place, while Frenchman Adrien Metge, took 39th.