Joan Barreda once again hung it all out today, taking a big win in Dakar Rally stage 7, the first leg of the first marathon stage. The Monster Energy Honda rider pushed through the rain in the mountainous terrain of Bolivia’s Altiplano (high plains) in what was the longest special since the start of the rally, and took the stage win by nearly three minutes. He now moves into the top-three overall, and well within striking distance of the lead (+4:45).
But it wasn’t without incident, as Honda’s top gun injured his knee in the feat. It was feared broken at first, but doctors have confirmed nothing is broken, as Barreda explains.
“I was doing well and had recovered several minutes when in the middle of the storm I left the track and the bike fell on me, hitting my left knee. I had the doctors look me over and they have told me that there is nothing broken but that I have some liquid inside the knee. Let’s see if they can fix it and tomorrow we will start to try to hold on to the stage. Although I saw stars when I had to put my leg down on some corners.”
Check in with the Monster Energy Honda team, including American Ricky Brabec, in this Dakar Rally stage 7 update from HRC Honda.
Broken or not, it’s going to be a challenge for Barreda to press on, especially at the pace he has been attacking the course.In another blow to Joan Barreda and the Honda team, Michael Metge (Barreda’s “water boy”) retired from the race today with a broken wheel. The rally has now arrived at the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, which has been the point in multiple past Dakar Rallies where Barreda has either suffered a mechanical issue or an injury that has taken him out of the race.
Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren finished second today (+2:51), regaining his overall lead in the race after Dakar Rally stage 7. While he gave up a few minutes to Barreda, he was happy to put over five minutes on his closest rival, Honda rider Kevin Benavides. It’s shaping up to be a battle between Van Beveren and Benavides—a Honda/Yamaha duel that has managed to gap the typically dominant KTM factory team.
“This was a stage for pushing hard,” said Van Beveren. “Technical courses are right up my alley because my bike is very easy to handle. It feels great to be leading the Dakar. I managed to open up a gap, which is great. You absolutely have to avoid falls during the marathon stage because the mechanics won’t be there to help you out.”
With less than five minutes separating the top-three riders, the race is extremely tight at this point, especially with the lengthier stages of the rally yet to come. Over eight minutes back today was Red Bull KTM’s lead rider and 2016 champion Toby Price. Like his teammate Matthias Walkner, Price kept it steady and consistent, careful to avoid any crashes or mistakes. Walkner finished sixth on the day, slipping back to fourth overall, while Price rounds out the top-five in the overall.
Both riders were happy to reach the end of the stage without incident, but admit they were riding cautiously. “It’s more important to take your time and spend a couple of minutes doing things right than get lost and waste half an hour,” said Price. “I’m generally happy with how things are going, after not being on the bike for 12 months things get a little rusty—not just your riding but your ability to navigate well, too. I’m starting to get my rhythm back though and it feels really good.”
Pablo Quintanilla of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team enjoyed a fifth-place finish in the stage, maintaining eighth overall. His teammate, American rider Andrew Short, finished 28th in the stage and now sits 25th in the standings.
Overall Results after Dakar Rally stage 7:
- Adrien Van Beveren (Yam) 21:49:18
- Kevin Benavides (Hon) +3:14
- Joan Barreda (Hon) +4:45
- Matthias Walkner (KTM) +8:18
- Toby Price (KTM) +13:34
- Xavier De Soultrait (Yam) +16:39
- Antoine Meo (KTM) +18:40
- Pablo Quintanilla (Hus) +20:47
- Gerard Farres Guell (Yam) +33:27
- Stefan Svitko (KTM) +33:53
- Ricky Brabec (Hon) +39:34
- Laia Sanz (KTM) +1:25:54
- Andrew Short (Hus) +2:09:47
- Mark Samuels (Hon) +4:45:02
- Shane Esposito (KTM) +5:08:48
- Bill Conger (KTM) +15:32:16