Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Quintanilla third in Dakar stage 11

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Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory rider Pablo Quintanilla of Chile continued his bid for a possible podium in the 2016 Dakar Rally on Thursday, delivering another strong ride for third position in the eleventh stage of the competition. Quintanilla is currently fourth in the standings and a strong rivalry has developed between him and French rider Antoine Meo, the two likely candidates for the podium third at the finish on Saturday in Rosario.

Thursday’s stage took riders from La Rioja to San Juan over a grueling 712km, including 431km of timed special. It was another day of extreme conditions and high temperatures, causing race official to stop the stage at the second checkpoint (at about 243km in the special). Only 14 riders reached the regular finish. Officials later confirmed that the leaders’ times had been verified; however there may be adjustments for the rest of the field. The decision was made because of the extreme heat and the fact that a large number of riders had got into difficulties, they confirmed.

Quintanilla finished behind Meo and overall leader Toby Price in the stage, saying: “It was a really tough day, the longest stage and very hot. In the beginning I tried to push really hard until the refueling, but then I had a little problem with the rear brake and I had to slow down a bit. There were a lot of stones in the last 30km and we had no grip in the rear tyre because it was really fast and a very hard surface. I’m very happy to finish today because it was a difficult day, but I think we did well.”

Speaking about the developing rivalry between him and Meo, Quintanilla added: “Antoine is a really good rider and he’s really fast on the bike. It’s a nice fight with a good rider and a friend. Let’s see what happens in the next two stages.”

It was another good ride by Husqvarna-supported Jacopo Cerutti of Italy, who despite the extreme conditions was one of the finishers. He was provisionally ranked at 13th in the stage and finished 34 minutes 24 behind the stage winner. He is presently ranked at 12th overall with a deficit of 46.49, however this may change when organizers decide how times and positions are to be adjusted.

On Friday competitors have another 931km to cover, including 481km of timed special and they will travel through semi mountainous terrain. The penultimate overnight stop will be in Villa Carlos Paz.