Dakar: Pacing is crucial, says Barreda

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Monster Energy Honda rider Joan Barreda says that the opening days of this year’s Dakar Rally, which kicks off today in Paraguay, will be all about pacing himself as he gets into the rhythm of the race in the opening days.

With a tough second half of the race this year – perhaps the race’s toughest since it moved from North Africa to South America – the Spaniard knows that no one is going to win the race in the first week.

“We will try and be as focused as possible, right from the outset, with a good pace and look to establish our place in the race. We know that it is a very long rally and we know that anything can happen. The final days will be really tough so we don’t want to go too crazy on the opening days.

“If we get any chances we will try and take advantage of them, but we know that in the second week there will be stages which will really mark the difference between the top riders and we have to be ready to take advantage of them and not get ahead of ourselves.”

However, both he and teammate Paolo Goncalves are keen to stress that both they and Honda have pulled out all the stops for this year’s race – something not aided by a particularly gruelling series of climbs to progressively higher altitude over the race, according to Goncavles.

“We are really convinced that we have done all the right preparation for the Dakar 2017 as well as we could. The team has worked really hard all season for that. In just a few hours the biggest challenge of the year starts up and what I want, more than anything, is that everything goes really well for the Honda team. Hopefully we can celebrate what we have been chasing for the last couple of years. As long as nothing strange happens we will be on the right path to achieve it.

“There will be very tough conditions for several days. The riders who live at sea-level, like I do, have trained to support altitude because different bodies work in different ways. I had a bit of trouble last year and this year we have more than double the time above 3,000 metres, so I’ve tried to prepare myself better. I expect to suffer quite a bit because you can’t perform as well as at sea-level, but I’m sure that the HRC staff have worked well in that sense. We are ready to do battle.”

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer