Stage winner Price just happy to get this far

Speedcafe.com

Thursday 18th January, 2018 - 2:34pm

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Toby Price

Toby Price says that even lasting so long into the 2018 Dakar Rally is an achievement as he reflected on his first stage win since a rally-ending crash last year.

Price was not headed at any waypoint through the 280km special stage from from Belén to Fiambalá/Chilecito and moved up to third in the general classification.

He gained ground on overall leader Matthias Walkner, who was fifth-fastest on the day, but admits that overhauling his KTM team-mate’s nearly 40-minute lead will be a hard ask with three stages remaining.

However, having exited the rally with a badly broken left femur 12 months ago, Price reiterated that he was happy to have even started, let alone run third with three days remaining.

“It’s tough at the moment, they’ve really given us a hard one (route), but it’s always fun, it’s great to be on the bike, and to be here on the start line,” he said.

“I didn’t quite think I’d make it this year so to be still in the race going towards the finish line now is a pretty big achievement for me, let alone trying to win the race.

“We want to be treading on one of those steps (podium) somewhere and we’ll see how we go.”

Price had lost around the same amount of time to the lead a day earlier when he was one of four front-runners to make significant navigational errors.

Having ventured as far as 10km off-course, the New South Welshman conceded that his hopes of a second Dakar title were “pretty much done.”

However, the stage win now represents a glimmer of hope for the 2016 winner.

“Yesterday was… I’ve never felt so bad in my life,” recalled Price.

“It wasn’t the best result we wanted yesterday and today we just needed to try and see if we could claw back a little bit of time.

“I think we’ve done that a little bit, but there’s still a long way to go, still plenty more kays.

“It’s going to be tough from back where we are, but we’ve just got to try and make a good, clean race to the end and just push where we can and be good to go.”

Walkner, on the #2 Red Bull KTM, maintained his cautious stance about the prospect of going one better than last year and winning Dakar, despite continuing to lead by more than half an hour.

The Austrian took a conservative approach on his way to the fifth-fastest time on Stage 11, allowing Kevin Benavides to make ground, but the withdrawal of Joan Barreda Bort means that Walkner’s lead is exactly 32 minutes.

“I spent most of the time with Stéphane Peterhansel today,” recounted Walkner.

“I passed him on the dunes, but on the fast bits he passed me.

“Every day can change everything. I have to stay focused day after day. I don’t think so much about victory.

“Of course, I’m a little bit nervous. Just missing one waypoint can cost you 20 minutes. Keeping going and doing my best is all I can do.”

Coincidentally, Walkner’s margin is precisely that which separated him from winner Sam Sunderland at the end of last year’s Dakar.

Stage 12 starting late tonight (AEDT) takes the field from Fiambalá/Chilecito to San Juan.

CLICK HERE for Stage 11 highlights.

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