“Game over” is a continuing theme and we are not even half way through the 2017 Dakar. Up front for the bikes, Toby Price fell just a few kilometers from the finish and broke his left femur. While navigation errors yesterday made a two-in-a-row Dakar win look difficult, Price is now totally out of the running.
Also in a “game over limbo” is the one-hour penalty handed to three of the four Honda factory riders, including current leader Joan Barreda. He, along with Michael Metge and Paulo Goncalves, apparently refueled in a prohibited location. Honda’s 4th rider, Ricky Brabec, is also under investigation. Appeals are underway, but organizers say the data is “clear cut.” Barreda had extended his lead today yet finds himself in 13th overall due to the penalty. Zing. Pablo Quintanilla inherits the lead. Stage 04 winner Mattias Walkner is only 2:08 behind.
The cars had a bit of the same. Carlos Sainz had a “game over” by way of spectacularly rolling down a hillside and spending two hours recovering. He did manage to get the Peugeot 3008 back to service so he may be able to continue, but no one makes up two hours. He can still support his team mates and battle for stage wins if his crew can put things right on the machine. On a less fatal note, race leader Sebastien Loeb lost a huge amount of time due to a navigation error early in the stage. His lead going into the stage eased the damage, but he still ends the day in 4th. That only leaves Loeb about 6 min adrift. Things are close. Lastly, Cyril Despres was able to take his first stage win in a car. The multi-time bike winner also sits as the overall leader by about 4 minutes. A bad day for some has to mean a good day for others, no?
And that brings me to the good stuff. The iron-men of the sport are very hard to track. Dakar themselves have riders incorrectly listed and of course the helicopters tend to follow the front runners. However, back in the middle of the field, the one-man armies showed us who was strong in the dunes. Stage 04 brought riders out of the mountains and into fesh fesh, (think of talcum powder), then dunes, and then firm-ish desert. This terrain tightened the field by allowing some to play catch up.
According to the numbers, it was mainly due to Toomas Triisa of Estonia losing a huge amount of time in the first section, though he did not continue the trend through the rest of the stage. Triisa essentially gave up his large lead for unknown reasons (navigation most likely judging by other rider’s mistakes). From there riders posted close times, clawing a few minutes back each waypoint.
Despite crashing just short of the finish (in front of live television no less), Lyndon Poskitt grabbed the stage win for Malle Moto and jumped two spots up to 3rd. He is still about 17 min shy of the new Malle Moto leader, Jose Kozac of Argentina. Kozac sits an impressive 33rd overall in the bike class. The numbers do not give much away; Kozac ran a similar time to Poskitt and gave up very little time at each waypoint. But with 11 waypoints, the minute here and there translated to a stage win for Poskitt, and the overall lead for Kozac. Triisa, with his massive lead from the day previous, ended an overall 2nd, with a 5 minute deficit to Kozac. The field is quite bunched up now.
As usual, Lyndon made the #DakarHeroes video reel (below). Stage 03 footage shows you how much the terrain changed for them. The weather changed a lot too, so be ready for some proper Yorkshire language. Get full standings, photos, and live news at Dakar’s website. Their Twitter feed also provides live updates during stages as well.