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Joan Barreda collects his third Dakar stage victory | Latest

A third victory for Joan Barreda. Monster Energy Honda Team has now won half the stages of the Dakar 2017.

The Dakar got back to relative ‘normality’ with a full-length stage, free from diversions or detours. The 449 kilometres against the clock on the route from Chilecito-San Juan turned out to be the longest one disputed so far in the 2017 edition of the race. With baking 45-degree temperatures – even reaching 50 in the saddle – riders had to endure one of the most physically gruelling stages, as well as having to deal with highly demanding navigation over the opening stretches of the stage. The second section – finishing in San Juan – was a speedier affair, albeit with technical complications.

Joan Barreda opened the track throughout the day with near-flawless navigation except for a very slight deviation at kilometre 53. Luckily, team-mate Michael Metge was on hand to confirm the correct direction. Both, with the Honda CRF450 RALLY, were soon spearheading the field towards the destination in San Juan. Metge scored the day’s best time, clinching his first Dakar stage win in the process; although later he was sanctioned for having missed a waypoint. The French rider’s route is currently being subjected to scrutiny.

The penalty means that the day’s top honours fall on Joan Barreda, who consequently collects a third Dakar 2017 stage victory and the second in succession. The Monster Energy Honda Team rider is fifth in the general standings, less than an hour behind the overall race leader.

Paulo Gonçalves dropped precious time whilst searching for one of the more elusive waypoints in this Dakar. By the end of the special he had finished some eight minutes adrift of the winner on the day.

Ricky Brabec was unable to finish in the way he had hoped. After starting the day out from behind and immediately pulling pack several positions, the American maintained a scorching pace and at one time even led the race. An apparent radiator problem put an end to his intentions and the Californian was forced to slow the pace down and eventually made it back to the bivouac with a tow from another rider.

Barreda’s third win, together with the triumph of Brabec in the seventh stage, means the Monster Energy Honda Team tally rises to four victories – half of the stages disputed so far.