Surprisingly, it was race favourite and defending champion, Cyril Despres (KTM) who became one of the many riders to struggle with a towering sand dune during the early part of the stage.
“The organisers announced this as a warm up stage but it turned out to be a real Dakar special, with lots of dunes and lots of navigation,” commented Cyril.
“Even if it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was good fun – a real challenge - and that is what we come here for.
“I caught the others up quite quickly and then at around kilometre 53 we went too far to the right and got into the wrong valley. I should have trusted my instincts more, as I could see it wasn’t quite right…”
The mistake proved costly and with rival Joan Barreda (Husqvarna) going on to win the stage and take control of the rally lead, Despres now finds himself in an unfamiliar position of fifth overall and almost nine minutes behind.
However, the race is still young and with another 12 stages to contest, it’s still very much on.
“Some of the guys out there today were riding really fast, but at those speeds inevitably you make mistakes and get lost. They would come past me in a rush and then a little later on they would come past me again! Still that is the way to learn and it is good when riders try and open the track rather than just follow.
“For sure it is going to make for an interesting race and I am guessing there will be a lot of changes at the front of the race over the next few days.”