After Tuesday’s unforgiving day a number of broken riders and drivers turned up for the start line of the 174-mile ‘Super Fiambalá’ special stage from Belen to Chilecito.
The stage proved largely uneventful for many of the leading contenders in the car category but plenty of drama unfolded elsewhere.
Thursday is the second marathon stage. With tiring bodies, the bike riders have to tackle a 233-mile special stage with the car drivers enduring 325 miles on the way to San Juan.
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Dutchman Bernhard ten Brinke held off a trio of charging Team Peugeot Total cars to win his second stage of the race in the Toyota.
Cyril Despres safely brought home title contenders Carlos Sainz and Stephane Peterhansel with Nasser Al-Attiyah finishing one minute further back.
Sainz (pictured), who still tops the overall standings by 50 minutes, said: “It was demanding and difficult. I have lost two rallies on this stage and had many problems, in 2009 I was leading and finished in a hole so I was happy to finish.”
After the disappointment of Tuesday’s navigational error, 2016 champion Toby Price attacked from the off and clinched a first stage win of the race.
The Australian was leading as early as 30 miles into the stage and held off Kevin Benavides and teammate Antoine Meo for the victory. Matthias Walkner still holds a commanding overall lead while rival Joan Barreda, who was second in the GC, retired from the race after 62 miles.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted yesterday and today we needed to claw back a bit of time, which we have done,” Price said. “There is still a long way to go.”
Yamaha rider Nicolas Cavigliasso has been a revelation since the race entered his home country, the Argentine enjoying a second consecutive stage win. Ignacio Casale followed him over the line 15 minutes behind but still comfortably leads the race.
Eduard Nikolaev has dominated this Dakar since the start in Peru, but he leads no more after a difficult stage in which he lost more than 40 minutes to new race leader Federico Villagra. Siarhei Viazovich won his maiden stage but it was the Argentine Villagra who profited the most from the Russian’s demise and he now takes a 16-minute lead into the final stages.