The participants of the Dakar Rally 2017 were spared another early-rise this morning and got to put their feet up in La Paz, Bolivia.
Riders finally get a well-deserved rest day in La Paz, Bolivia and the chance to recharge the batteries as well as making preparations for the decisive coming week at the Dakar. There were sessions with the physiotherapist too as the competitors look to keep their bodies in tiptop shape.
Some just took the chance to hang out and relax. The rest of the crews, meanwhile, spend the day meticulously going over preparations as the team embarks on the final crucial week.
The teams now look poised to attack over the next few stages. As usual, riders will not be allowed to receive any external mechanical assistance from the close of tomorrow’s stage in Uyuni to the following day.
With the Dakar Rally officially resuming Monday morning, competitors will have to contest six more equally gruelling stages until they reach the finish in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 14. The second week of racing at this year’s Dakar Rally begins with the first part of the two-day-long marathon stage.
When riders leave the Bolivian capital on Monday morning they travel south to Uyuni, where they will bivouac overnight. Because it is the scheduled marathon stage they are denied any contact or assistance from their teams on the overnight stop between Uyuni and Salta in Argentina, their destination for Tuesday’s stage.
For first stage of the marathon it will be particularly important to preserve tyres and machinery. After Salta they still have long and challenging timed specials integrated into the stages.
The final day is Saturday, where they still have 786km to ride to the finish line in Buenos Aires, with the traditional short timed special of 64km. Riders head into the Argentine capital in reverse order.
The rally begins its return trip by heading towards what has become one of its regular stomping grounds since 2014. The Uyuni casern, which is well known to the raiders, will once again be transformed into a bivouac for a day. For this first part of the marathon stage, which will include very long sections of sandy tracks, the service park will be open to all vehicles, except for those entered in the assistance category.
Mathew Hart – All Hart Racing – Overall 63rd
“The rest day in La Paz, Bolivia 2017 Dakar Rally is here. I am fortunate enough to get a night in the hotel to get some washing done and dry out. Tomorrow morning we head out on the marathon stage which is two days racing without meeting your support crew. The first day we will travel from La Paz to Uyuni which is 622km and then second day Uyuni to Salta which is 900km. These two days are critical to look after the bike and not do any more flying tricks for the camera! Thanks again to everyone who helped me get to this far and everyone who is following and supporting along the way.”
“It’s been a hard time with a lot of crazy things – temperatures of 45 degrees to 5 degrees here in Bolivia and altitude of 4,500 meters. The navigation has been heavy and very physical riding as well. It’s good to arrive here in the lead but at the same time I know it doesn’t mean much because we still have a long way to go. I need to stay focused until the end. We’ve been busy organizing things for next week and I went to see my friend Toby Price and it was nice to see him in good spirits and on the road to recovery. For next week I am expecting a lot more rough times to come. We’re heading back into Argentina but first we have the marathon stage, which is always interesting. We’ll be on our own in the desert, so that will be a bit rough. I think the organizers have in for some rough times with the navigation, the riding, and lots of riverbeds, dunes and camel grass. I’ll just be trying to focus each day because this year I really want to see the finish line.”
Pablo Quintanilla – Overall 2nd
“For me the first week was really good. It was very difficult. We started in the heat of Paraguay and finished in cold temperatures here in Bolivia. Also, the last stage was really hard in the navigation but I feel very good, and I’m looking forward to doing a good second week. As we know it is the most important and difficult week. I always welcome the rest day because after a week of racing it’s very tough. I try to rest a bit, get some good food and relax a bit. But in the end, it’s only really in the morning because we have to start to prepare everything with the road book, and the clothes and equipment, and you need to be focused on the race all the time.”
Adrien Van Beveren – 3rd Overall
“Last night I had a full 10 hours of sleep so I’m feeling fresh and ready for the next stages. The first week of this rally has been really positive for me. It took some time for me to find a good race pace and then on stage two I saw an animal crossing the road and that kind of made me stay off the gas for the rest of the day. But during the last three stages I’ve kept building on my speed while also making sure I stay away from mistakes. Along with improving my navigation during the last few days I’m gradually feeling a lot more confident on the bike. The plan for week two is simple – I want to keep this same momentum and remain concentrated until the end. The most important thing is that I now found a pretty competitive race pace and I know what to do to keep that. This is surely a harder Dakar than last year and there’s also a new waypoint system that demands 100% of our attention. The key is to remain focused on navigation and that’s exactly what I’m planning to do this coming week.”
Matthias Walkner – Overall 5th
“I won one stage and I was second in one other so that was pretty good. I try to ride on the limit but when it comes to the navigation it’s extremely difficult. I just hope I can find my rhythm and ride fast. The extreme altitude, combined with very long days, we start each day at around 4.00 a.m. so we get up about 2.00 a.m. But it’s the same for everyone.”
Xavier de Soultrait – 6th Overall
“We’ve had a very good first week at this Dakar and I’m really happy with my speed. I was fastest outright during the short opening special stage and then went on to claim two more top three results on stages two and four. I’ve also made a few mistakes getting lost a couple of times during this first week and it’s exactly that kind of mistakes that I want to avoid this coming week. I feel that I’ve gotten a lot more into the groove of this race so I’m feeling a lot more confident to push. I was able to attack the few following stages so that I can gradually place myself as close as possible to the top. The feeling is great on my bike so far and we’re now aiming high. With six more stages to be contested everything can happen, really.”
Pierre-Alexandre Renet – Overall 8th
“For me the rally is good far. The first week was not perfect, but I did one really good stage. I was disappointed with stage five because I made a big navigation mistake and it cost me a lot of time. But anyway, this is Dakar and with the new waypoint system it’s tricky. It is more difficult than how it was before. We don’t have any arrows (in the road book), so when we validate the waypoint, if we are not correct it’s hard to know in which direction you have to go to recover.” Speaking about what to expect in the second week, Renet commented: “I think the hardest is still to come.”
Paulo Goncalves – 10th Overall
“We have to weigh up the first week with some very positive points in our favour: the way we have worked on the bikes has been perfect. Of course there were some details that failed and that makes it tough for the team not being in the lead. But we have to go on fighting. We have a very hard week ahead of us and we have to put any errors that the team has made behind us. We are very close, united and we are still really strong. We will keep working with the same intensity to try and get ahead.”
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