Sunday, 8 January 2017 La Paz - the riders take a welcome break
After searing heat in Argentina and the altitude and torrential rains in Bolivia that forced the organisers to abridge the 5th stage and cancel the 6th, the rest day in Bolivia’s capital La Paz was a welcome respite. The participants were received on a rostrum by the President, Evo Morales, in person before proceeding to the bivouac which was rapidly flooded!
But the rest day is only for the riders. The mechanics have to fix up the bikes and quads for the second week, which promises to be just as tough.
The 110 motorcycles and 25 quads that made it to La Paz will be setting out today for a marathon stage but the special has been cut short after downpours filled the rios to overflowing, making them unfordable. The 7th special will finish at Uyuni, but the Salar salt pans are flooded, so the riders will have to put their motorcycles and quads in the parc fermé (marathon oblige) as their assistance teams will be on the road to Tupiza. Tomorrow, Tuesday, the second part of the marathon stage will take them to Salta, in Argentina, where they will be met by soaring temperatures once more, and perhaps more rain.
It was a pretty good week for Sam Sunderland (KTM), whose tactics paid off, taking him to the top of the leader board, 12’ ahead of FIM Cross Country Rallies reigning world champion Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) and 16’07 ahead of Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha). In 4th position, Gerard Farres (KTM) is 20’57 adrift of the leader, followed by Austria’s Matthias Walkner (KTM) (-29’01) and Xavier de Soultrait (-36’06). After taking an hour’s penalty for refuelling during a neutralisation and off course, the Honda riders are some way behind: Paulo Gonçalves in 10th (-1h08’21), Joan Barreda, who got lost into the bargain, 12th (-1h12’39), Michael Metge in 21st and Ricky Brabec, in 22nd.
En quad, France’s Viste is category leader 8’14 ahead of Russia’s Karyakin. Dutrie is 10’35 adrift, followed by Ignacio Casale (-14’36), and our FIM Cross Country Rallies quad world champion Rafal Sonik est in 10th (-2h05’40).