Stage 11: Bisha to Bisha
Stage 11, the second last stage of this year’s Dakar, threw a lot of challenges at the riders. Once again the rankings at the head of the field were shuffled with a few surprises. And it now looks like it will come down to a contest between 3 riders on 3 different makes of bike on the final day.
Dunes, dunes and more dunes today! Big, small and then HUGE ones according to Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna)!!!
“I didn’t think they would ever end”, he said when he got back to the bivouac. “I fell 3 or 4 times and it was a very hard day.”
Coming into the 2nd last stage it was important for the riders not to lose focus and make a race ending mistake. Both Pablo and Vasileios were up early and in good spirits despite knowing what lay ahead for the day.
The stage started off very fast and then turned a bit sandy.
Despite the difficult day the remaining Nomadas Adventure riders Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) and Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna) went very well.
In the Rally 2 group, Pablo came in 42nd today and is ranked 54th. Vasileios’ 51st place today moves him to 48th in the group.
In the general standings, which include all the riders, Pablo is sitting 76th and Vasileios is 70th.
Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM), who is supporting the team from the bivouac, said it was a long day.
“We had a very long and boring day in the bivouac today, there’s not much to do now and it’s heating up quite a bit as we get closer to Jeddah.”
“But I got some great news today from Walter Roelant’s son Axel. Walter has had surgery in Belgium, he’s in a stable condition and is recovering.”
Toby Price (#18 – KTM) opened the stage but immediately started losing time. He finished 28th today and has dropped to 10th overall.
Kevin Benavides (#1 – KTM), whilst officially out of contention, went out to help Red Bull teammate Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM). Benavides took the the stage win, Walkner 4th.
Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) had a excellent run finishing just 4 seconds slower than Benavides and that has moved him to 1st place overall. He is 6 minutes 52 seconds ahead of Pablo Quintanilla (#7 – Honda).
So the race to the finish looks like being between Sunderland, Quintanilla and Walkner.
Fourth place Adrien Van Beveren (#42 – Yamaha) is 15 minutes off the leader. He still has a chance, but a win will rely on the 3 leaders losing a lot of time over a relatively short special stage.
Unfortunately, Toby Price has no chance of making up enough time to score a podium finish.
There’s now one day to go and Dakar 2022 is done.
Stage 12 has a liaison of 516 km and a relatively short special of just 164 km. No dunes, just sand and soil, and the promise of the final podium in Jeddah.