As the Dakar Rally presses on, attrition is on the rise. In today’s Dakar Rally Stage 11, it was Paulo Goncalves (among others) who failed to make it to the finish. Goncalves, HRC’s last hope of an overall victory, was found unconscious just after the second checkpoint, and was immediately airlifted to an area hospital. The HRC team now reports that Goncalves okay, and suffered no broken bones or major injuries in the crash. It’s a fortunate prognosis for Goncalves, but still a nightmare for the Portuguese rider to end his race in this fashion.
“Today my participation in the Dakar 2016 came to an end in the worst way,” Goncalves commented. “It appears that I had a heavy fall, but I can’t remember what happened. I was told that I arrived on the bike to an area where there were spectators and ambulances.
“It’s a Dakar that finishes for me in the worst way. It’s a shame because the team really deserved much more. The competition is that hard and the last few days hadn’t been going that well. But we have to keep going and think that soon we will be back in competition.”
Dakar Rally Stage 11 marked another grueling stage through challenging terrain amid extreme temperatures, and it appears we’re facing a possible replay of Stage 9. Stage 11 was halted prematurely at CP2, officials making the call citing the extreme heat and the fact that a large number of riders had “gotten into difficulties.” But as with Stage 9, there were a number of top riders who reached the regular finish before finding out the stage had been halted.
Officials confirmed that the leader’s times had been verified, and will stand, but also added that there “may be adjustments for the rest of the field.”
For the time being, it appears Antoine Meo celebrated the win in today’s Dakar Rally Stage 11, a mere 18 seconds ahead of Price. Most importantly, Price was able to put time over his nearest rival Stefan Svitko, and he now leads by over 35 minutes.
It was no cakewalk for Meo in today’s tough stage. “In the beginning I rode pretty well,” said the Dakar rookie. “At one moment I thought I had made a mistake in the navigation so I turned back, but in fact I was good. So Pablo [Quintanilla] caught up to me. After that I had a big crash because I didn’t see well in the dust, but after the refueling I was better in the navigation and it was really great.”
It was no cakewalk for Price, either, who is not counting on his 35-minute lead to carry him to the finish. “We’re another day closer, but for sure, it’s been a hard one. I can’t smell victory yet; not yet. I won’t smell victory until I cross the finishing line on the last day.”
Behind Svitko, the race for the final podium position is heating up between Meo and Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla. Meo took the point from Quintanilla with his stage win today, but with less than two minutes separating the duo, the race for third is going to be heating up.
Kevin Benavides is now Honda’s lead rider – the South America Rally Team rider is in a solid fifth-place in the general ranking, three positions ahead of American Ricky Brabec, who is now the Honda HRC Team’s official top rider.
Brabec had another good day in what was an extremely difficult stage. “It has been tremendously hard and very hot,” Brabec said. “Horrible. In conditions like these, I think that the only thing you can do is try to get to the end without making any mistakes due to the speed. I’m happy about that evenif I did lose a bit of time. But here I am, in one piece. So I have to be happy about that.”
American rider Ian Blythe outscored Brabec in today’s stage, carding a remarkable eighth-place finish for himself in Stage 11. Fellow Americans Scott Bright and Alexander Smith are continuing the arduous battle to the finish, but C.R. Gittere is now out of the race, having retired yesterday in Stage 10.
Stage 11 has taken its toll on many riders, including Laia Sanz, who admitted she had a difficult time due to a fever today. “Today I had a temperature and I didn’t feel really good,” Sanz commented. “I was doing a quiet stage just to finish We got into a riverbed and I let Viladoms pass me. Then I was in his dust and had a big crash. I damaged the bike but I was lucky I didn’t get injured.”
Tomorrow riders will face another long day tomorrow in the penultimate stage of the Dakar Rally. A 578-mile (931 km) stage including a 299-mile (481 km) special will take them into mountainous terrain and tight tracks.
Provisional Dakar Rally Stage 11 Results:
Provisional Standings as of Dakar Rally Stage 11: