Dakar : KTM - Leg 8
For the 7th stage the competitors left Tan Tan very early in the morning. Around 02:00 PM the first riders were at the bivouac of Atar. But the stage was not ended. At midnight about 50 pilots were still in the desert, most of them almost sure they could
spent the night far from the bivouac. Some of them decided to stop and to sleep a short, cold and troubled night. Some others proceeded very slowly. Many of all sentenced to the withdrawal. For all the night, time by time, a headlight coming from the dark announced the arrival of a pilot. The organizers decided to let the last riders leave for the next stage, after a medical check-up. Should they reach the bivouac at Nouackchott? And if, should they have the time to enjoy this area devastated by a sandstorm?
In the meanwhile the today's special test was running, Esteve, Coma, Sala and De Gavardo leading the group. The quartet proceeded in a lapse of no more than seven minutes until the first check point. Then, in the following sandy section, suddenly the drama. The fours leaders had some problem of navigating when looking for a secret waypoint in the dune crossing section, and Cyril Despres, the yesterday's clipped wings blue bird, spread his wings again: “ I was absolutely not sure a was able to conduit, and I don't wanted to assume any medicament this morning. I wanted to have the real feeling and I rode relaxed. The way was not so easy, but…” Cyril Despres passed at CP2 for first, with seven minutes of advantage on Esteve. It was a tremendous, proud act of self-propulsion.
In the last hundred kilometres David Casteu took the maximum advantage from the renewed situation and finally won his first special test of the Dakar, just in front of the admirable American Chris Blais. Then Cyril Despres and Isidre Esteve.
“I have to thanks Cyril Despres”, said Casteu at the finish, “he is a master in navigation. I only had to follow him, and learn. At the finish I thought for a long time this was the area where last year we have lost Fabrizio Meoni, and I dedicated him my first victory, I am sure he is watching us and he is also happy for my today's success”.
A stage as an adrenalin injection for Marc Coma, that finished only at 5th position. But for the Spaniard the daily goal was only to control the situation and, in order to do this, obviously the better thing was to follow as a shadow Isidre Esteve. To get lost is always disappointing, but in this outlier it was also less frustrating: all together they made the same mistake, and Coma was liable to follow this rival. At the end the only risk was if they got lost for more than a half a hour, and for the moment the situation of the Repsol KTM Team leader can be considered under control.
Marc Coma is still leading with a certain comfort. Now the priority of the Repsol KTM Team-mate is to protect the advantage he took in the first half of the race. Certainly, Cyril Despres gave him a kind of“support”, also if he seems to be able to re-enter himself in the fight for the final success. This is the life in a race like the Dakar: even if you need a slice of fortune, you are the only builder of your final result, and you have to make any effort in order to reach the target. Also when a rival withdraws, your job is less hard, but it remains very complex because one other competitor can challenge you. If a strong rival has a problem and loose time, you have to doubt you are certain until the last finish line.
If someone of you is now thinking that the Dakar 2006 could be less interesting, please walk in the bivouac with us. It is 01:00 AM, the riders are sleeping, a team manager is checking if his human and mechanical “material” sleeps well, one more time before to crawl in the sleeping bag. All is ok: “Until I feel strained the race will be very interesting” , says Jordi Arcarons, a smoking tea mug in his hands, “And I still feel thinly under pressure. The game is not over, and the race not ended yet. Marc is now simply in a very good position, and shows a great talent, but he knows that he have to maintain his self control until the end. He knows his job, but the level of the tension is however very high”.
Above the parts and the Teams is Hans Trunkenpolz, the “General Officer” of the KTM Army, more than the 60% of all the competitors: “For me the race is always very interesting. During so many years, every time I loved this special taste of the victory, but one kind of feeling has become more and more intransigent: this one coming from the safety of the riders. Each day I feel good when a KTM rider wins a stage, but I finally feel completely comfortable only when the last rider has reached the bivouac without any accident”.
Now finally the rest day. 24 hours of détente. Then the race will restart on Monday, compass to Kiffa.
Press Release KTM