The 2021 Dakar Rally is now entering into its final phase, with the battle hotting up as the rally heads towards its final showdown in Jeddah. Today saw mixed fortunes for the Monster Energy Honda Team who, in spite of a 1-2-3 finish at the end of the tenth stage, had to endure the withdrawal of Nacho Cornejo who had been in the battle for the overall Dakar win.
Riders set out this morning from the Neom bivouac for the tenth stage of Dakar 2021, heading southeast towards Al-Ula. They faced a total stage of 583 kilometres including 342 kilometres against the clock. The dunes are over, but the tough agenda nevertheless served up gravel and rock-filled tracks, with the route running through canyons and sandy sections, in equal measures. The difficulty level showed few signs of easing up.
It turned out to be a bittersweet finish for the team. On the one hand, the Monster Energy Honda Team was once again celebrating with a podium lock-out at the arrival in Al-Ula, with Ricky Brabec claiming a third 2021 Dakar, second place going to Barreda with Kevin Benavides in third. However, the team also saw José Ignacio Cornejo fall at kilometre 252, bringing significant consequences for the Chilean rider. After making it the finish-line of the special stage in bad shape and after medical advice, Nacho decided to retire from the race and undergo a thorough medical examination. Fortunately, after the complete examination at the Tabuk hospital, the rider has no after-effects from the crash. Cornejo won a stage win and had led the race for three days.
Victory on the day went to Ricky Brabec, who had headed out from second position this morning, opening the track for much of the day. The American was looking far more at ease on terrain well-suited to his style and reached the end of the special three minutes ahead of team-mate Joan Barreda. Brabec now lies second in the overall standings, 51” behind the leader.
Barreda, who started seventh, showed fine pace, making up some of the time he had dropped yesterday. The Spaniard finished second and is currently fourth in the rally.
Kevin Benavides has taken advantage of today. After starting out from the front this morning at Neom, the rider managed to set a swift pace before eventually posting third place. The aggregate moves him to the head of the overall rankings with two stages left to run.
Tomorrow, Thursday, sees the longest scheduled special of the 2021 Dakar. The stage will include some 511 kilometres against the clock and barely 50 kilometres of link stage. The new bivouac will be situated in Yanbu.