HIMOINSA Team prove their credentials on the longest special section of the Dakar rally.
Miguel Puertas crossed the finishing line in 85th position, 3h35m37s behind stage leader Barreda in a gruelling test of endurance that forced him to stop for over two hours to counter early signs of dehydration. Rosa Romero and Antonio Gimeno put on a great performance for us during the special stage, the end stretch of which had to be shortened so that the second half of the field, Rosa and Antonio included, would be able to start tomorrow’s third stage in view of the difficulties posed by the route and the stifling temperatures. Joan Barreda set an impressive 5h46m06s to cement his position at the top of the Dakar leaderboard.
To mark Three Kings’ Day, rally organisers threw the riders the longest special of the event at 518 km, and let us not forget we are only at stage 2 out of 13. Setting off from Villa Carlos Paz, Córdoba, today’s raid passed through the provinces of La Rioja and San Luís before finally reaching San Juan. This second stage turned out to be similar in many ways to last year’s, offering a wide range of different goings; hard surface at the start of the race, followed by stretches of dusty terrain and finishing with a sandy final leg to the finishing line. In a day that saw the mercury hit 42º, rally organisers had to shorten and neutralise part of the special for the safety of those bikers placed in the second half of the rankings, who were already exhausted following the long stage.
Problems began to emerge with only 200 km of the special to go, particularly in the sandy section. Today we have been able to confirm just how hard the stage is, with bikers speeding past each other in different directions, off pistes, and problems with bike bibmousses failing, which forced Marc Coma to limp through the final 60 km without a rear mousse. Turning to our bikers, Miguel Puertas put on a great showing for him, passing though a number of control points of the leg in close to 60th place and finishing the special without having to be neutralised. The HIMOINSA Team rider eventually closed off the leg in 85th place, impressing with his riding skills and drawing on his military mental composure to get him through to this stage of the event. “It’s been one of the hardest days I can recall in the Dakar rally, along with last year’s blisteringly hot stage. I got off to a good start on the first stage of the rally, which threw up the most mountainous terrain, but I reached a point where it became impossible to continue. Not only due to the sheer mileage behind me, but above all because I was becoming dehydrated. Even the organiser vehicles had run out of water. I was forced to make stops that must have lost me roughly two hours. From that point on I had make stops every 5 km, stopping the bike to ask the public for water and catch my breath in the shade. It has been a punishing and brutal knock-out leg. Just imagine yourself racing in these conditions during the hottest part of the day and also with the fesh fesh thrown up by the riders ahead of you. The fact that Rosa Romero finished this leg is testament to her skill”. Miguel Puertas, talking on today’s stage on returning to the bivouac.
Similarly, Rosa Romero and Antonio Gimeno once again rode the day out together, demonstrating perfect team tactics. According to the online tracking for the leg, both had reached the last CP when the race organisers decided to neutralise the leg for those riders still out there. This means everyone will start on the third stage of the rally tomorrow, which should invigorate them. It is an epic achievement for Rosa Romero to finish off this gruelling leg and congratulations to Antonio Gimeno for his admirable work alongside her.
Turning to the head of the field, and apart from the disastrous setback suffered by Brit Sam Sunderland, who squandered 2h26m48s after taking a wrong turn following CP11, Marc Coma was the race favourite to suffer the greatest blow, finishing 12’32” behind stage winner Joan Barreda.
Stage Standings: All of motard keep on The Dakar. Waiting for Rosa and Antonio Standings
Stage 3. San Juan – Chilecito (Liaison: 437 km / Special: 220 km)
The pressure endured by the competitors yesterday, to a very late hour for some, will drop a notch on the route to Chilecito. The decrease in mileage and intensity will allow the competitors to enjoy the majestic landscape. The red earthen tracks overlooking cliffs or plunging into canyons will take the Dakar to the heart of one of Argentina’s most beautiful regions. However, the competitors will have to resist the temptation of tourism, especially in the bike and quad categories for which the route holds several bumpy sections in store. After avoiding thousands of rocks, all it takes is one to ruin this splendid day!