|Dakar Rally 2013: Francisco Lopez winner of SS3 Nazca, Despres new leader.|
He only started in 30th place, but by the time he got to Nazca he’d already left almost 20 other riders in the dust: Francisco López took his second stage win in three days at the 2013 Dakar.
Leading the field can prove costly. A strategic factor that must be taken into account in the Dakar. Yesterday's heroes are often today's losers. And this is exactly what happened to Joan Barreda and his fellow travellers towards the start of the stage. Yesterday's winner was followed by Pedrero, Fish and others as he carefully performed his duties. He avoided the most dangerous pitfalls by focusing 110% on the road book... meaning he could only maintain a leisurely pace.
Meanwhile, the most experienced riders started quite far back but they seized their chance to overtake the entire field without having to wrack their brains navigating. And few are better at this than Francisco López: the leading group went through the km 39 checkpoint at no more than 50 km/h, but Chaleco blasted onwards at 100 km/h. The Chilean was rewarded with his eighth Dakar win, the second of this edition.
"The stage was very different from what we went through during the first two days" reported Lopez at the finish line. "I started from afar and went flat out throughout the stage in an attemt to catch up with Cyril Despres, which I think I managed to do. I focused on navigating and finding the waypoints, and everything went well. But tomorrow's stage will be different at the front of the race, so I'm taking things one day at a time."
But he didn't take over the lead. Cyril Despres is no slouch either when it comes to experience and strategy, and he's got a knack for recognising the key points where he can make the difference. Today's third place behind Chaleco and Paulo Gonçalves was enough for him to take the overall lead with a margin of 2:51 mins over López, 4:59 over Pål Anders Ullevålseter and 6:03 over Olivier Pain.
"It was a fantastic stage for me" reported Paulo Goncalves. "But I had to do pull something out of the bag after losing heaps of time yesterday due to navigational problems. At the start, I knew I'd be able to claw back time today if I attacked without throwing caution to the wind, and it paid off because I finished second. So I'm very happy. Tomorrow will be a big day but I'll try to build on today's momentum."
Today's stage also saw a repeat winner in the quad category, as Marcos Patronelli grabbed his second stage this year and slightly bolstered his position... despite having to deal with a slowly deflating tyre which forced him to slow down 30 km from the finish! The Argentinean driver now commands a 21:18 mins lead on his nearest competitor, Sebastian Husseini. One of the first casualties of this war of attrition was Tomás Maffei, third in 2012, who has a deficit of 1:35 hours to make up on Patronelli in the overall.
"It was a beautiful stage, not unlike yesterday's" said Rafael Sonik after the stage. "It also had lots of stones and cobbles towards the end. Tthe tyres didn't enjoy it. I had a flat 30-40 kilometres from the finish. But everything went well. I'm happy with the stage. I feel fine. The quad's in perfect working order. It was a great day."
2013/01/07 | 19:03 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/ASO