Dakar 2018 Day 9 Results

Brabec leads until late pass by Méo, moves to eighth overall

Dakar 2018 Day 9 Adrien Van Beveren
Although he lost much of his overall lead, Adrien Van Beveren is still in front, though now he has only 22 seconds on Kevin Benavides who will likely be very motivated when the rally enters his home country of Argentina in stage 9 (which has been canceled due to weather so the next competitive stage will be stage 10 on Tuesday).YAMAHA MOTOR EUROPE N.V.

In marathon running, it’s generally acknowledged that the best way to go about it is to aim for negative splits, where the second half of the race is actually faster than the first half despite fatigue. Part of the reason for that is the mental aspect, which is just as important as the physiological component—when others are fading in the last half after going out too quickly, the mental boost one gets when passing them is a great pick-me-up and makes the miles seem like they go by faster.

At least that’s what it seemed like in the seventh stage of the 40th Dakar Rally, a 585-kilometer run from Uyuni, Bolivia, to Tupiza. (This is the final stage that’ll be run entirely in Bolivia since tomorrow’s stage has been canceled; due to heavy rains there was concern about floods and getting assistance vehicles to the bivouac. Rather than race tomorrow, the competitors will ride the highway from Tupiza, Bolivia, to Salta, Argentina.)

After a fast, muddy, and cold stage for yesterday’s first half of the first marathon stage (there will be one more before this rally’s over), American Ricky Brabec was slightly disappointed at finishing 10th in the stage and maintaining 11th in the overall provisional order.

But that might have been a blessing in disguise.

Dakar 2018 Day 9 KTM
Red Bull KTM teammates Antoine Méo (19) and Toby Price (8) ran 1-2 in the early going of stage 8 when it was still very wet. Méo conceded the lead to Ricky Brabec briefly but recaptured it in the final stretch to secure the stage victory while Price finished it third fastest.PHOTOS DAKAR.COM

The route from Uyuni to Tupiza featured just 87 kilometers of liaison or transfer section and 498 kilometers (just under 310 miles!) of timed special stage, a portion of it run at elevation of well over 15,000 feet, with cold and rain combining to make things doubly miserable. Cyclists would term it a suffer-fest and like many riders nowadays, Brabec trains a lot on bicycles and is familiar with that sort of self-imposed torture.

In riding to the 10th-fastest time of the previous day, Brabec may have been mindful of the fact that in the bivouac of a marathon stage, there are no spare parts, team trucks, or mechanics allowed. You basically have to make your tires—and the rest of your bike—last for two consecutive days with no appreciable maintenance.

So he was the 10th rider to start stage 8, three minutes behind Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team’s Antoine Méo.

Former enduro world champion Méo attacked from the beginning and had the fastest time to the first waypoint, Brabec working his way up slightly slower and putting in the fourth-fastest time there.

Méo continued to lead for almost three hours, Brabec working his way to second some two hours into the stage.

By the seventh waypoint, though, Brabec led and continued to post the fastest times all the way to the last waypoint.

In the final run to Tupiza, however, Méo attacked a final time, took the lead, and beat Brabec by a minute and eight seconds with Méo’s teammate Toby Price third fastest for the stage, the 2016 race winner 2:45 in back of the Frenchman.

Dakar 2018 Day 9 Ricky Brabec
Stage 8 finally provided Ricky Brabec with the type of riding he’s used to and he took full advantage to rocket up through the pack from his 10th-place start and overtake Méo for the lead late in the stage. However, he had to settle for second when Méo sprinted in the final miles, though Brabec’s second-fastest time lifted him from 11th to eighth in the provisional overall order.MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM

Brabec couldn’t feel too bad about finishing second since his time lifted him from 11th to eighth overall in the provisional standings at 27:54:01. Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team’s Adrien Van Beveren remained the overall leader after finishing the stage seventh fastest, but his lead is now a fairly minuscule 22 seconds over Brabec’s teammate Kevin Benavides, 27:22:03 to 27:22:25. Sixth in the stage, Red Bull KTM’s Matthias Walkner moved up a spot to third overall at 27:28:37 followed by Price at 27:29:38.

Brabec’s teammate Joan Barreda—the winner of yesterday’s stage despite a big crash that injured his knee—managed to grit his teeth and complete the stage in pain, dropping to fifth overall at 27:30:04.

“The type of stage today was very similar to the races we have in California and I felt very comfortable—much more than yesterday, which was horrible for me because I'm not a rider who likes mud,” Brabec explained. “Today there were fast tracks and off-piste. The end of the special was good, battling with Antoine Méo.”

Dakar 2018 Yamaha Honda
A bird’s-eye view of overall race leader Adrien Van Beveren just ahead of Kevin Benavides, who’s currently second.FREDERICH LE FLOC’H/DPPI

M´´o revealed, “I am really happy with my performance today. Right from the beginning my plan was to push and try to regain some time on the leaders. I felt really good today; despite the conditions and the length of the special, I didn’t make any mistakes. With tomorrow’s stage canceled, it puts me in the unfortunate position of having to open Tuesday’s stage in the dunes of Argentina. It is always a slight disadvantage to open stages like that, but I’ll do my best and see where I can finish.”

Van Beveren pronounced himself satisfied with his outcome: "It is great that we keep the lead at the end of this extremely difficult marathon stage. The rain, the mud, and the high altitude made things really hard for us these last two days. It was really exhausting physically, but I managed to get two good stage results. Yesterday I was second and then today I pushed hard and managed to stay close to the leading group. For big parts of the special stages yesterday and today I found myself opening the tracks.

“I am feeling great so far on my bike and I also have a great feeling with my navigation. I can be fast while also avoiding navigational mistakes and that is crucial for the coming stages as well. I feel that I've put the pieces of the puzzle together and now I know what I need to do during the coming stages.”

Andrew Short also enjoyed his best stage of the race to date, cracking the top 20 for the first time with the 18th-fastest time and clawing back a few spots in the overall to 23rd with a total time of 29:45:34.

He said, “These last two days have been really tough physically and mentally so I’m really happy we got this first marathon stage done.

“Yesterday I had a few small crashes in the mud and also stopped a few times to assist other riders. I’m really fast in the sand sections and I need to improve my speed in the faster tracks.

Dakar 2018 Day 9 Andrew Short
Andrew Short zigzags his way through the Bolivian camel grass to 17th in stage eight, his first time cracking the top 20.PHOTOS DAKAR.COM

“Overall, today I had a good stage. I stopped and tried to help [my Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team teammate] Pablo [Quintanilla] with the issue he had so I lost a bit of time there.

“For me the goal is to continue day by day. This race is really exhausting mentally and physically. We are all sore and beat up right now, but we need to focus on the stages to come.”

The Americans as a whole seemed to do better in this stage, with Mark Samuels placing 21st and holding 32nd overall in 32:23:49, and Shane Esposito cracking the top 20 for the first time with his 17th-best time, which lifted him to 34th overall at 32:42:28. Bill Conger, the fifth American entrant, finished 63rd for the stage, so he improves to 76th overall in 44:44:30.

Dakar 2018 Laia Sanz
Laia Sanz is amazing. She’s been putting in steady, carefully measured rides for the past week and managed to uncork a great stage eight, finishing ninth fastest and leaping up to 14th overall.PHOTOS DAKAR.COMING

Among other noteworthy performances, Red Bull KTM/KH-7 rider Laia Sanz sped away from the other women and her only real competition is with the men. Today, she finished ninth fastest in a flawless ride that lifted her to 14th overall. It’s the first time she’s finished a stage in the top 10 since she first accomplished that in 2015.

The personable young woman from Spain shared, “Yesterday was a really tough, physical day. Conditions were really bad, but I was doing okay until I got stuck in the mud.

“Today went a lot better, I had a nice rhythm and rode a very good stage. I managed to catch some of the riders in front and so I knew I was doing well. I just pushed as hard as I could safely right to the finish. To get a top-10 result at the end of a marathon stage like that feels really nice and has given me some good confidence going into Argentina.”

OVERALL RESULTS AFTER STAGE 8

Ranking Rider Number Rider Team Overall Time Time From Leader Penalty
1 4 Adrien Van Beveren Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team 27:22:03
2 47 Kevin Benavides Monster Energy Honda Team 27:22:25 + 00:00:22
3 2 Matthias Walkner Red Bull KTM Factory Team 27:28:37 + 00:06:34 00:01:00
4 8 Toby Price Red Bull KTM Factory Team 27:29:38 + 00:07:35
5 5 Joan Barreda Bort Monster Energy Honda Team 27:30:04 + 00:08:01
6 19 Antoine Méo Red Bull KTM Factory Team 27:31:59 + 00:09:56 00:01:00
7 9 Stefan Svitko Slovnaft Rally Team 27:53:58 + 00:31:55 00:01:00
8 20 Ricky Brabec Monster Energy Honda Team 27:54:01 + 00:31:58
9 3 Gerard Farrés Guell Himoinsa Racing Team. 28:00:02 + 00:37:59
10 40 Johnny Aubert GasGas Motorsport 28:32:05 + 01:10:02 00:04:00
Ranking Rider Number Rider Team Overall Time Time From Leader Penalty
23 54 Andrew Short Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing 29:45:34 + 02:23:31
32 64 Mark Samuels MEC Team 32:23:49 + 05:01:46 01:00:00
34 103 Shane Esposito Duust Rally Team 32:42:28 + 05:20:25 02:05:00
76 105 Bill Conger Klymciw Racing 44:44:30 + 17:22:27