British hope Sam Sunderland has been forced to retire from the 2015 Dakar 67km into the fourth stage following a crash which has left him dizzy and with shoulder ligament damage. The factory KTM rider won the opening stage of the Dakar before losing close to two and half hours on stage two when he got lost. He put in a solid performance on stage three to finish the stage in 11th and remained determined to show he had the pace to run at the front even if any chance of a podium finish had vanished.
The stage itself belonged to two men – Honda’s Joan Barreda and KTM’s Marc Coma. The two men were in a class of their own and having completed a monster 594km liaison stage which included crossing the Andes and climbing to over 5000m in sub zero conditions before the 315km timed special stage began.
Stage three race winner Matthias Walkner opened the route but was soon passed by both Coma and Barreda. The two men ended up riding together with Coma crossing the line first. But as Barreda started two minutes behind him he actually won the stage meaning that he will start tomorrows 458km timed stage in first position – therefore giving Coma the opportunity to claw back vital time.
Barreda said: "I'm delighted. The first part of the stage was a very fast but complicated track. Marc [Coma] was ahead and it was very difficult to catch up with him. I stayed focused and motivated. I caught up with him towards km 100 and eased into a solid pace. We tackled dunes and navigation was difficult. Marc and I finished together. I've got a good strategy. We're in control. The next few days will be extremely tough. Actually, there's a big chunk of Dakar left and we know there are tricky situations ahead. We know that if we keep an eye on Marc, we'll follow a strong pace, because he's the reference."
Coma remained philosophical about his days work and made his intentions to continue to push hard. He said: "It was a grueling stage with lots of navigation work involved. I started second. I knew I had to avoid mistakes at all costs, considering my place in the overall. I tried to go as fast as possible and soon I was opening the road. At the end I spent all day long at the front. The first part was quite tough. Matthias [Walkner] got lost towards the start of the stage. The last part featured lots of changes of direction and course. In fact, this type of situation is my cup of tea when riding in the desert. I'll keep this solid pace up and I'll inject some speed to force mistakes and problems in others, hoping not to suffer any myself."
Father and son pairing Simon and Llewelyn Pavey continued to impress on stage four and were both rewarded with improved positions in the overall standings. Despite not riding together on the stages the two men sit 73rd and 74th overall with Llewelyn leading his father by 11m 34s after over 18 hours and 40 minutes of racing.
Midwest Racing Husqvarna rider Chris Cork continues to battle on through his first Dakar. At time of writing the 43 year old wasn’t classified in the results but is believed to be very close to the end of the stage.
Stage 4 result
1, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 3:27.28
2, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 1.59
3, Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 2.49
4, Jordi Viladoms, ESP, KTM, at 10.44
5, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM, at 10.55
6, Javier Pizzolito, ARG, Honda at 11.29
7, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco, at 12.51
8, Lia Sanz, ESP, Honda at 13.48
9, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 13.51
10, Michael Metge FRA, Yamaha, at 14.32
Overall Standings after Stage 4
1, Barreda 13;10.33
2, Coma at 12.49
3, Goncalves, at 20.29
4, Faria at 23.05
5, Viladoms at 24.51
6, Qunitanilla at 30.42
7, Price at 32.05
8, Walkner at 33.28
9, Duclos at 36.31
10, Helder Rodrigues, POR, Honda at 39.05