Cyril Despres moved one step closer to winning the Dakar in 2013, earning his first stage win of the year.
Following a well-deserved day of rest, competitors in the 2013 Dakar Rally set off for Stage 9, the longest in the contest, which took them from San Miguel de Tucuman southeast to Cordoba, well inside the boundaries of Argentina. The course ran 593-kilometers with a neutralized mid-zone of 122 km and it proved to be a disastrous stage for some. One rider able to avoid any serious issue over the long stretch was defending Dakar champ Cyril Despres of KTM. The French rider’s strategy of pushing hard at the opening, slowing during the mid-sections of the race, and pushing again at the end allowed him to outpace his closest competition, Husqvarna Rally Team by Speedbrain’s Joan Barreda, by over four minutes for the stage win. Barreda’s teammate, Alessandro Botturi, finished the day in third.
Despres had been somewhat measured in his racing up to this stage, but took the opportunity in Stage 9 to remind the field that he was still a threat for the overall win.
“It was a good day with lots of attacking and lots of turns,” said Despres. “I knew that it would be physically demanding, that I’d have to give it my all. I’ve got blisters on my feet and my hands are sore, but I had to bang my fist on the table to say: “Hey, I’m here!.”
On top of the hazardous terrain, riders also met with livestock and wild animals on course, forcing many to slow and keep an even keener eye on the horizon. Reflecting on the various dangers faced during the stage, second-place finisher Barreda offered these remarks.
“(It was) a really tough and dangerous stage. The ground was so slippery that it would have been really easy to fall. I opened up the road coming across every type of animal imaginable; cows, horse, birds, and every time I had to slow down to avoid hitting anything. I’m pleased with the second place. With my hand the way it is I couldn’t do any more.”
Off the start, Stage 8 winner, Barreda, led Team HRC’s Johnny Campbell and KTM’s Ivan Jakes to the first checkpoint. Despres used the first portion of the stage to make up time though and soon after reaching CP1, the French rider had moved from his starting position of 11th to the front of the pack. Campbell’s teammate, Helder Rodrigues, also charged through the ranks and was in second-place half-an-hour into competition, just seconds behind Despres.
121 km into the race, Despres continued to hold out front but had Barreda close behind. Yamaha’s David Casteu was up to third and Campbell was still holding on in fourth while Jakes remained steady in fifth. Rodrigues slipped back a bit to sixth, but all were within just a few minutes of Despres.
Casteu hit a snag soon after, stopping his bike briefly to attend to a potential mechanical issue. He was able to get back on track for a while, but quickly stopped again and lost over 20 minutes on the leader. It was later discovered that Casteu had injured his shoulder and damaged his bike after he hit a cow. The nightmare stage saw the Frenchman drop from first in the overall rankings to 21st. His teammate, Oliver Pain, also struggled through the stage, falling into a ditch at one point and having to receive assitance in getting out, causing him to lose ground in the general classification, slipping from fifth to sixth.
By the time riders reached the end of the first timed sector, Despres led Barreda by over four minutes. Campbell was still running strong in third, an additional minute behind Barreda and KTM’s Ruben Faria had moved into fourth.
Soon after the start of the second timed sector, Campbell ran into trouble of his own, signaling a stop on his GPS for over five minutes. Following his difficulty, Faria moved into third followed by Botturi in fourth and Barreda’s teammate Paulo Goncalves in fifth.
423 km into the event, Despres remained in the lead with Barreda at his back. Botturi got past Faria for third and Jakes remained steady in fifth. Rodrigues continued to avoid serious issue as well, keeping pace in sixth.
By the finish, Despres had earned his first stage win of the competition, the 31st of his career. Behind the top-three riders, Faria finished the day in fourth and Rodrigues claimed fifth. Jakes came in sixth followed by Goncalves in seventh and KTM’s Joan Pedrero in eighth. Campbell, despite his troubles mid-race, was able to push through the difficulty to claim 10th.
Despres retained his position in second overall, but now follows Faria, who took over the top spot. KTM’s Chaleco Lopez had a slow start but was able to pick up the pace enough to claim 11th for the stage, helping him to move up the general classification to third. Jakes is now fourth overall, followed by Botturi, who rocketed up to fifth.
2013 Dakar Rally Stage 9 Results:
San Miguel de Tucuman to Cordoba (Argentina) – 852 km total, timed special 593 km
1. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 5:41:36
2. Joan Barreda, ESP (Husq) 5:45:39
3. Alessandro Botturi, ITA (Husq) 5:46:50
4. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 5:49:23
5. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Honda) 5:50:23
6. Ivan Jakes, SVK (KTM) 5:51:13
7. Paulo Goncalves, ESP (Husq) 5:52:50
8. Joan Pedrero, ESP (KTM) 5:53:50
9. Gerard Farres Guell, ESP (Honda) 5:55:48
10. Johnny Campbell, USA (Honda) 5:56:32
2013 Dakar Rally Overall Standing after Stage 9:
1. Ruben Faria (KTM) 25:57:12
2. Cyril Despres (KTM) 26:02:35
3. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) 26:06:15
4. Ivan Jakes (KTM) 26:14:08
5. Alessandro Botturi (Husq) 26:20:10
6. Oliver Pain (Yamaha) 26:25:58
7. Helder Rodrigues (Honda) 26:28:35
8. Stefan Svitko (KTM) 26:30:02
9. Jakub Przygonski (KTM) 26:30:25
10. Israel Esquerre (Honda) 26:35:42