As it turns out for Joan “Bang-Bang” Barreda, a Spaniard who might inherit the Dakar throne, he’s not the next Marc Coma, at least not for now. He’s still winning battles, including todays stage 10, but his war is lost.
Bang-Bang toasted his 12 minute overall lead of Marc Coma with a wet crash in Bolivia on stage 8 that lead to a broken handlebar, exastribated by the “marathon” stage which prohibits any outside support to the riders. This left Bang-Bang needing to borrow a set of clean handlebars from a rider willing, in this case Argentine stable mate Demian Guiral. It had been predicted that the younger Barreda would falter and sacrifice his OA lead before stage 10.
Coma now holds a 7.5 minute lead over HRC’s Speedy Goncalves (PRT). Speedy and Coma have diced it up before including Speedy’s FIM Cross Country Championship.
The next fastest HRC rider in the field is Laia Sanz (ESP) who now enjoys 8th position in the general standings, albeit over 2 hours behind Coma. Forget that she is a female competing at the same level with men. Her gender is irrelevant here. It’s a extraordinary for her and the 2 men who have also outperformed their seedings. Namely, Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) and KTM’s Toby Price (AUS).
Each of these three, Price, Sanz and Quintanilla were seeded 26, 29 & 31, respectively and all riding in the top 8 overall. This is very telling of the talent and perseverance here.
Of these impressive runs, that of Pablo Quintanilla stands out with 3 stage podiums including a win on stage 8. The Chilean enjoys home field advantage, especially in the Atacama Desert. Last year, Quintanilla turned heads with an astonishing run from the back of the seedings, coming out of nowhere to contest the fastest navigators in the world. As a Chilean, Quintanilla will inherit Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez Contardo’s dynasty, thus becoming a national hero among his fellow countrymen.
This edition of the Dakar is far from over. On the bubble of the podium sit 3 men: Price, Quintanilla and Svitko (SVK), all within 15 minutes of 3rd place. The next placed rider is David Casteu (FRA), who is another hour out of the competition.
Yesterday’s big drama was aired out in an HRC press release blasting the Dakar organizer ASO for allowing the rally to continue despite potentially dangerous racing condition. Salt water damage to electrical components was wide spread in the ill fated stage 9 back to Iquique from the marathon stage. Several HRC riders felt harsh comments toward the organizers. But let’s face it, there’s always going to be one “gate” worthy event at the Dakar. Even though a lot of racers suferred from this, lets hope the drama ends with Salt-Gate.
With 3 stages to go, Marc Coma is a safe bet for his 5th Dakar title, but we wouldn’t wager much here, as HRC’s Goncalves is only one opportunity away from earning the title away from KTM. It will be the first time in 14 years for KTM, if it actually happens and a first for HRC in 25 years.