Toby Price again became the only KTM rider to take a stage win of the Honda men as the Australian held sway at the top of the timesheets at every checkpoint throughout stage five of Dakar 2016.
Price took the stage win by more than than two-and-a-half minutes to slingshot up the outright standings from eighth all the way up to third, less than two-minutes behind outright leader Paulo Goncalves on cumulative time.
“This marathon stage was definitely difficult. Today was a little bit tricky with the navigation. I had to stay on top of the game. I caught a couple of other guys and got in some dust. I made a couple of little errors in the end there, because I was a little too worried to take my eyes off the road. It was a pretty crazy track. All in all, we’re stoked. I didn’t expect to be that far ahead for the day. I caught a couple of guys, but I thought the other guys in front were on a good pace.
“We’ve got another long day tomorrow and we’ll see how we do. The track was just like big open roads, so on most of it you could get on the gas and go pretty good, but then on probably the last 30 or 40 kilometres it was pretty hard navigation and I was trying to stay on top of things. We just tried to push when we could and try to hold back when we had to, but we’ve come away with a good result, so it’s a good day.
“I know we’ve got the stage win, but I’m not too sure where we are overall, but we’re stoked and happy with everything. We’ve just got to keep pushing along and do what we can. Fingers crossed, but there’s still a long way to go. We can’t count on things just yet. Today is only day five. We’ve got another seven or so stages to go and it’s a long way. Anything can happen between now and then. We’ll just try and make the right calls when we have to and push when we need to, so we’ll see how we go.
“The bike is good. I didn’t crash or do any damage to the bike. It’s running really well. The guys have done a really good job. All is good, just the tyres were starting to get worn out at the end and it was hard to hang in there on those slippery roads, but it made it a bit of fun.”
It was a KTM 1-2-3 for the stage with Price leading home fellow KTM 450 Rally riders Stefan Svitko and Matthias Walkner.
Five time Enduro World Champion Antoine Méo took second place in the special stage and is proving a fast learner in his first Dakar and would have made it a KTM top four but a five-minute penalty added to the Frenchman’s time relegated him to eighth for the stage.
Joan Barreda Bort managed to escape any speeding penalties on stage five to finish the stage in fourth place ahead of Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla.
Joan Barreda Bort
“I think that in the end I had a good stage today. We were faced with a really tough physical stage, very hard for all. I think that it went well even though there was a problem with the navigation in the final stretch that didn’t match the roadbook. I hope they clear up these points. It didn’t go badly because we are still in the running to win the race.”
Paulo Goncalves retained the outright lead despite a disappointing 12th place on stage five, eight minutes slower than Price. The Portuguese rider’s outright lead trimmed to less than two-minutes over Slovakian Stefan Svitko and Toby Price.
“It was a really difficult marathon day. Yesterday was a big day and again today was a big day with higher altitude, so I’ve got a bit of a headache. In the end I’m happy because the bike was riding really well during these two marathon days. I think my time is also good. I finished without any problems, so this is good and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
“Again, it will be a big day in front with more than 500 km, so now we need a rest. On the special, the first hundred and last hundred kilometres, especially at the end of the stage, had really difficult navigation, but I found the right way and I’m happy for myself and Honda HRC because we are riding the right way and we will try and keep going like that.
“The marathon is obviously difficult, because yesterday and today is around one thousand and seven hundred kilometres in all, with 800 km per stage. With the high altitude it’s difficult and that’s where it can make the difference between a few riders. But I think the second week will be harder than this week.
“Joan had bad luck because he was braking late at the limit, but these things happen. He was unlucky, but I’m sure he will recover. I don’t think the penalties will have an effect because there are a lot of hours left in front of us to race and I think that five or six minutes at the moment is nothing”.
Fellow Honda rider Kevin Benavides slipped from second overall to sixth outright after finishing stage five with the 16th quickest time. Goncalves and Benavides had led the field away due to their 1st and 2nd outright placings after the previous stage, that was likely a handicap for the two Honda men who had no tracks to follow and thus had to really concentrate on precise navigation on a day where it was easy to make mistakes.
“It was a very tough stage, at altitude and very dangerous with a lot of cliff edges in the mountains. In the end we had a lot of navigation problems with a cable that wasn’t shown and some things that didn’t seem to coincide with the roadbook. I hope that the ASO makes a note of this, because we were lost for quite some time. Above all I made it here and that is what really counts.”
Today’s stage was battled out at average heights of over 3,500 metres above sea-level, enough to put the physiques of even the toughest riders to the test. To make matters worse, the recent days of easy navigating have come to an end and competitors can expect complications ahead. As is now habitual, the arrival of the entourage in Uyuni was nothing less than an all-out fiesta.
Tomorrow’s Stage – 2016 January 8. Stage 6: Uyuni – Uyuni Special sections: 542km – Total: 723km
The longest special section of the Dakar takes place on the 6th day of consecutive racing. And that is not the only difficulty of this operation, which will take place between 3,500 and 4,200m in altitude. The pace and surfaces change constantly, alternating between sand and rock, which may be disconcerting, especially if it rains. Glimpses of the Salar d’Uyuni are but one of the visual delights on the agenda.
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