Dakar bite softened as longest stage is cut
Dakar 2017 suffered another blow as a second stage - today's longest - and perhaps most decisive 1000km run with its 406km special stage was cancelled after rising water and landslides cut competitors off from last night's Bivouac.
Today's is the second significant stage to be cut after Saturday's 527km special was cancelled, over and above Stages 8 and 9 being shortened as a result of dramatic weather conditions in the Bolivian Andes, where extreme weather is to be expected.
An official statement this morning noted, " Stage 9 Salta – Chilecito cancelled. As the road is cut off, most of the vehicles, competitors, assistance and logistics from the Dakar caravan were diverted on an alternative route through San Antonio de los Cobres, extending the distance of the liaison by about 200km. They would not be able to reach the Salta bivouac in time to start the race.
A number of larger vehicles will not be able to use that road either. The day will be devoted to regroup the race caravan in Chilecito to continue the at the start on the 12th of January of stage 10, between Chilecito and San Juan." Dakar organisers have also lent resources to the nearby village of Volcan, which was ravaged by the rainstorm and the resulting mudslides.
Besides the stage cancellation, Dakar 2017 has been criticised for its ineffective road book, while this year's small field can be put down to many probable competitors being unwilling to travel to areas this year's race visited after organisers insisted on tweaking venues this year.
The removal of today's stage also takes a significant sheen off the rest of the week, as the Toyotas were expected to come back into their own as the route returned to sane altitudes and their naturally aspirated performance returned to allow them to mount a challenge to the altitude friendly Peugeots.
Should the race manage to run the final three days to their planned distances, there remains just over 800km of racing left, rather than the expected 1200km, which makes it a little more difficult for their pursuers to do very much about the stemming Peugeot tide. Dakar has so far removed over 1275km of special stage from this year's race...