Stage three, which took riders over some of the most spectacular sections of the desert of southern Peru shook up the standing order. With organisers promising that the day’s stage would be the most difficult so far, the terrain competitors faced lived up to it’s fearful reputation. Riders tackled steeper and more difficult dunes in the first half of the day before entering rolling terrain in the second half of the stage.
Confident of recovering the time lost in during the previous day due to a navigation error, Chile’s Francisco Lopez (KTM) made short work of the 327km long stage to claim the win.
Although starting in 30th place, Lopez had overtook almost 20 riders in blinding dust by the time he got to the finish in Nazca and took his second stage win in three days. This heroic ride now lifts him to second overall in the classification.
Commenting at the end of stage three, Lopez remarked…
“I started from right back in the field and I went flat out through the stage to try to catch Cyril. I focused on navigating and finding the waypoints, and everything went well. But tomorrow's stage will be different at the front of the race, so I'm taking things one day at a time.”
Chasing Lopez home for second place was Husqvarna’s Paulo Goncalves.
“I really pushed it today and am happy about the podium. It was a shame that I got stuck in a dune and lost about a minute trying to get going again. I wanted to win and came pretty close to it.”
Focusing solely on his own performance, Red Bull KTM’s Cyril Despres once again maintained a steady pace throughout the day. Unworried about the pace set by others around him, the tactical Frenchman rode within his limits to end the day in third overall. That result now moves him into the overall lead of the rally after three days of competition.
“It might seem strange, but although I took the overall lead today there was nothing particularly special about today’s ‘special’. Maybe two or three times in the year you do an amazing stage where you ride quickly and navigate perfectly and you are pretty pleased with yourself at the end,” said Despres.
“But today wasn’t one of those days, just a normal day where I rode ok and made a little navigation error that cost me a little bit of time and made me a little angry with myself. At this point in the rally the overall positions aren’t really very important.”
Slowly beginning to improve his pace, Italy’s Alessandro Botturi (Husqvarna) broke into the top five to claim fourth overall. Poland’s Jakub Przygonski (KTM) had a good day out finishing fifth in the stage to improve his overall position to tenth.
However, leading the field can prove costly. It's a strategic factor that must be taken into account in the Dakar. Yesterday's heroes are often today's losers. And this is exactly what happened to Joan Barreda.
Breaking his rear wheel as he landed after a jump just 40km into the special stage cost him dearly. Until that moment Barreda had been in command of the race, but was forced to slow down considerably to be able to get through the special, losing over thirty minutes in doing so. He now slips back to 18th in the overall classification.
Stage Three - Results
1. Francisco Lopez (KTM) 02:37:54; 2. Paulo Goncalves (Husqvarna) 02:39:02; 3. Cyril Despres (KTM) 02:42:02; 4. Alessandro Botturi (Husqvarna) 02:42:59; 5. Jakub Przygonski (KTM) 02:43:14…
Overall Results (After stage three)
1. Cyril Despres (KTM) 06:15:03; 2. Francisco Lopez (KTM) 06:17:54; 3. Pals-Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) 06:20:02; 4. Olive Pain (Yamaha) 06:21:06; 5. David Casteu (Yamaha) 06:21:11…