HIMOINSA Team overcomes canyons and clifftops to reach Chilecito
Miguel Puertas is well on path to reaching his personal milestone of 100,000 km in the Dakar event and is currently placed 83rd in the general rankings. Rosa Romero (ranked 102) and Antonio Gimeno (103) remain committed to their objective of having the three HIMOINSA Team riders on the podium in Buenos Aires on 17 January. Debutant Matthias Walkner took the honours for the day, while Joan Barreda remains at the head of the overall standings, ahead of Portuguese rider Gonçalves and Austrian Matthias Walkner.
Third stage of the 37th Dakar Rally, which this year provides no let-up due to its frenetic time schedule, demanding that teams work around-the-clock if they hope to conquer or even complete the world’s flagship rally raid event. Following yesterday’s gruelling special, which saw race organisers having to neutralise the last eighty kilometres of the stage, today’s leg forced riders to face their first altitude-related challenges of the race so far as they vie to complete a 220 km special and a liaison spanning 437 km, taking in earth tracks and breathtaking clifftops and canyons.
Despite the shorter length of the special, many riders were still doubtlessly recovering from the physical strain of yesterday’s outing and so nothing could be taken for granted today, as with all the legs making up the Dakar event. It is, after all, the world’s most demanding rally. Competitors must have all five senses focused on both bike and track, as any loose stone could knock them out of the race. It turned out to be a highly technical stage, with a very dangerous last section as riders navigated rivers swollen with recent rainfall, uneven terrain and steep gullies.
Miguel Puertas was the first off the line this morning, starting the special at around 9:42 am and finishing 3h34m46s later. Over most of the control points along the way, the native of Granada recorded impressive gains in the general standings, wavering between 62nd and 69th. However, he lost his way somewhat over the last few CPs, dropping to 86th for the stage and standing 83rd in the general standings. “Yesterday’s stage took a lot out of me. There were people arriving at night, even though they are now back in it due to the neutralisation. This meant almost all bikers were unable to sustain much of a rhythm today. For me it was a simple, rolling and relatively easy stage. A day like this has not been bad for us. It was scorching yesterday, but today we’ve been up at around 3,000 meters so at least we were 10º o 15º cooler, which certainly helped us. The route had a lot to offer; quick at the outset but then becoming more technical as we hit the rivers and canyons. Position-wise I was up all day, but then I came across Gerard Farrés, who was stranded, so I stopped to help him and give him fuel”. Miguel Puertas, speaking on today’s stage.
Also worthy of special mention is the hard work and results being shown by Rosa Romero, with the invaluable support of teammate Antonio Gimeno, as she strives to finish her first Dakar. Despite her punishing schedule yesterday, Rosa relied on sheer willpower as she and Antonio crossed the finishing line with their options still intact. They are now placed roughly one hundred in the general standings. In her Dakar adventure last year, Rosa withdrew during stages 4, 3 and 5.
Unfortunately, the day was overshadowed by the death of Polish rider Michal Hernik, aged just 39. May he rest in peace.
Austrian rider Matthias Walkner took first honours against the odds aboard his KTM. This marks the European biker’s first Dakar event and he was certainly euphoric with his win, although he was also quick to acknowledge that he will have a hard time of things once the real navigation challenges commence. Joan Barreda remains on the top of the general rankings ahead of Portuguese rider Gonçalves (+5´33´´) and Walkner (+10´33´´).
Standings Stage 3:
Stage 4 – Chilecito / Copiapó (Liaison: 594 km, special: 315 km)
Dakar is soon to reach Chile! Bright and early start for riders with an ascent of up to 4,800 meters, before the riders cross the border at the San Francisco Pass. The real competition starts with a gradual warm-up on the mining slopes before facing off with the Atacama Desert, with its open sandy terrain. After that, the final 40-kilometre stretch, which will already be shrouded in night for many riders, will throw up the sand dunes and giant depressions of Copiapó. Deft riding skills and instinct will see riders through.