The first stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge wound up in Qsar Al Sarab, at the gateway to the great erg in the southern region of the country, after a vertiginous day that included 290 km against the clock and considerable dangers. The stage was also marked by the relentless, blistering temperatures that accompanied the riders throughout the interminable Liwa dunes.
Paulo Gonçalves took third place on the first day of dunes and soaring temperatures at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with Joan Barreda finishing fourth.
As it had been Joan Barreda who claimed victory in yesterday’s Super Special, he was able to choose the starting order and decided to set off from last position of the 54 participants in the bike category. Barreda set about overtaking as many riders as possible, although in the end he finished in fourth place with a deficit of several minutes from the eventual winner.
Team-mate and reigning world champion Paulo Gonçalves, took third showing good consistency throughout, without wanting to take any excessive risks. Hélder Rodrigues experienced some electric problems at the CP2 level and lost valuable time trying to repair a breakdown. He arrived in 26th position, 1 hour 37 minutes from the stage winner.
I was third today so it was a really good race for me and for Team HRC. The speed of the race was really high, so I tried to play it safe and guarantee a good all round position. We have four more races in France and we need to stay competitive and safe, because the race is very dangerous with a lot of dunes that you can’t always see coming. We need to take each day as it comes, and try to get a good overall position.
It was a difficult stage because of the tough conditions and the high temperatures. I made it. It was a good test for the bike and a good test for Honda and we’ll continue working on this to try and do a good job.
Martino Bianchi Team HRC General Manager
It was a really, really hard race today. It was really fast and pretty dangerous. It was quite a good result for Paulo finishing third and Barreda finishing fourth; for about half the race he was quite close to second place, but then he made a slight mistake and finished fourth today. I’m sorry for Helder who had some electrical problems 50 kilometers into the race. But that’s racing. We accept what’s happened and we’ll do our best to get him started tomorrow.
Today we got to hear of the passing of Cameron Waugh. The whole Team HRC would like to offer their respect and most sincere condolences to him, his family and friends.
Wolfgang Fischer Team HRC Team Manager
Today was the first really tough race in the desert. As always in the heat of the Liwa desert you can see who is well trained and physically in tip-top condition. Joan and Paulo were able to keep up the speed at just a few minutes from Marc and Sam. Unluckily we had some problems with Helder today. We need to find out what was the reason, but tomorrow is a good position to attack from, to hold on to the positions and make up some ground.