Antoine Meo wins Dakar Stage Seven
Toby Price sixth on stage and remains second outright
Five-time enduro world champion Antoine Méo came to the fore on stage seven to win a special stage in his maiden Dakar. The shortened stage showed how fast the French rider has adapted to a new field of motor sports and saw him take an impressive triumph.
“The first part was real tough, we couldn’t see the terrain properly because of the sun glare. I really enjoyed the ride after the neutralised sector, I caught two riders and, because it was moist, there wasn’t any dust… Awesome.
“I rode fast, I made no mistakes, and I navigated properly towards the end. I felt much better than yesterday, so I attacked a bit. I’m happy.
“I’m discovering the Dakar, it’s still hard to judge. I wanted to be in the top 10 and, so far, it’s even better. I try to be consistent and not to get too tired. I’ll do my best to keep it up. I feel okay physically, but I know we’ve still got to tackle the toughest week. I’ll stay relaxed and we’ll see.”
Paulo Gonçalves (Honda), who stopped for over 10 minutes to help Matthias Walkner at the start of the stage, expanded his lead on Price (KTM) and Svitko (KTM) after deducting the time lost in the process from his original time today (31st, 12m57s″ behind the winner).
Honda’s Kevin Benavides enjoyed a good stage seven to finish second on stage behind Meo. Benavides currently lies fifth outright, behind Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla.
Goncalves time was deducted at the end of day’s proceedings and thus the Portuguese rider was credited with third overall for the stage, extending his outright lead over Toby Price to 3mins-12secs.
“At the start of the special, I stopped to help Matthias Walkner, who had taken a tumble, and I stayed with him until Pablo Quintanilla got there. The first part of the stage featured some navigation, but then the profile was a bit like two days ago, with lots of ríos.
“In the second special, after the neutralised sector, it was raining cats and dogs, I was almost scared, it was almost snow.
“The weather cleared up a bit towards the end. I’m rather pleased with today’s stage, and even this week. If I can repeat this in the second weeks, I’ll certainly be very pleased, but I think the stages will be very different, so we’ll see.”
“I’ve led the race for the last two days. I won yesterday, but I don’t know exactly how high I finished today (sixth) because riders who stopped to help Matthias will get the lost time back. It’s great to keep an eye out for others. Anyway, I’m happy with my performance today.
“There were Australian flags at the finish of the special. It’s nice to get support when you’re racing so far from home.
“You must never drop your guard, it’s the best way to make mistakes. I’m happy with the work we’ve done so far.
“It’s far from over, a mechanical or a navigational mistake can destroy everything.
“My aim is to finish the race and get a podium spot. We’ll see… We had a good first week, no significant mistakes. Our objective was to get to the rest day in a good position.”