Dakar - Motorbikes - Leg 8
It was certainly one of the fastest timed stages of the 2009 Dakar Rally, although some sinuous portions were part of the game plan as well. On this 294-kilometre portion of today's itinerary, Cyril Després signed his second stage win following
that of San Rafaël last Wednesday.
The Frenchman was the fastest motorbiker between Valparaiso and La Serena this Sunday and, little by little, is moving up the standings. After eight stages, he finds himself in third position behind David Frétigné, who also moved up one step to the detriment of Jonah Street; the American seems to have spent himself a bit too much during the Dakar's first week.
"Around fifteen kilometers from the finishing line, a donkey suddenly shot out from behind a bunch of cacti," reported Després. "I think it was a lucky escape, for both him and me."
"The tracks were quite slippery and that's why you need technical skill to be quick on them, and strength too, to keep control of the bike. It's been another good day for me," he continued.
Després felt good to be in a position where the top three riders are fighting each other to gain back minutes: "We're separated by quite a bit in the general standings, but it's not all over yet. This is where your physical condition starts to matter."
Indeed, the rally still has a long way to go, and along with the mechanical reliability, the human effort must be maintained as well...
Sunday's stage-winning time was 1'49" ahead of second-fastest Marc Coma, who retains a still-comfortable rally lead.
"It was a very difficult special stage, almost like ice-skating," he shared. "The tracks were very slippery. I had to be careful on the bends and avoid the slightest mistake with the brakes."
"But I didn't have any problems at all today and that's the main thing," the Spaniard added. "The hardest part of the race is about to start."
Opening the trails in his home country of Chile was Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez, the result of his stage win as he arrived in Valparaiso. He launched at full speed this morning, counting on the support of his fans to spur him on. He finished third on today's run and remained seventh in the overall rankings.
The Dakar's sporting director, David Castéra, was hoping the Valparaiso-La Serena stage would be a somewhat easy endeavour as he wanted to make sure the drivers would have a chance to warm up following their rest day.
In fact, he promises that the next three days will be a hard challenge indeed...