Monster Energy Honda holds the lead in Merzouga. Benavides wins the second stage. The Argentinean Monster Energy Honda Team rider was, for the second time, the fastest in the Merzouga Rally.
Benavides, who had previously won the prologue, triumphed in an error-free second stage ride and moves up into second place overall, behind team-mate Barreda, as the race arrives at the marathon stage.
Kevin Benavides clinched the third consecutive victory for a Monster Energy Honda Team rider, after taking top spot in the prologue and Barreda’s victory in the first full stage. The Argentine reached the finish line while scoring the day’s best time and is rewarded with a move up the overall leader board into second place.
“I felt very well today, I went out to attack with a great pace,” expressed Benavides after the stage. “I felt very good about the bike. In the end, I saw the ones in front and over the final kilometres of dunes, I wanted to attack but something made me think about not forcing and not risking to finish the stage safe and sound. I arrived well, I won the special and we are good in the race.”
The second best rider in the Monster Energy Honda Team on the day proved to be José Ignacio Cornejo, who finished fifth with a swift pace. Joan Barreda, opened the track after winning the stage yesterday, a difficult job, but succeeded in not dropping much time to the pursuing pack and in doing so holds on to overall top spot.
“It was a good stage for me, after a long time without being in front, opening the track, today I tried to push without making mistakes,” said Barreda. “I doubted over some waypoints, where I lost some time, although the pace of opening the track was good. I am happy with the stage, which has a lot of sand and for others it has been easy to follow my tracks. Tomorrow I will go back and am well-placed to finish these two days which are the marathon stage.”
Ricky Brabec woke up this morning to stomach problems and a discomfort which hampered his performance. Nevertheless, the American battled on to post seventh position and is one position higher in the general rankings. Portuguese Paulo Gonçalves kept a cautious pace, avoiding errors or falls conceded some time to his team-mates.
“Stage two for me was not ideal: I woke up this morning with a pounding headache and the bubble guts,” explained Brabec. “You have to be really careful here in Africa of what you eat and touch, it was up to me and today it was a slow go with all this going on. Not the best result but had a smooth run and still with three days to go to a lot of change. Tomorrow is Marathon stage and hopefully with the medicine I took this afternoon I will feel better and come out in a better position “after all the stages I have won have been marathon stages” today we recover, hydrate, and get ready for the marathon . Looking forward to some rougher terrain.”
Tomorrow begins the first part of the marathon stage, which will feature a 63-kilometre liaison and a 239.21-kilometre special stage against the clock. Riders will spend the night in the camp located at the foot of the dunes, without the possibility of receiving mechanical assistance.