AREQUIPA, Peru – Spanish motorcyclist Joan Barreda (Honda) said after pulling out of the Dakar Rally that this year’s early exit is tougher for him to accept than last year’s withdrawal, when he was forced to abandon the race in the 11th stage.
Barreda went down the wrong descent and got stuck during Wednesday’s dune-filled third stage from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa, eventually being pulled out by helicopter.
“It’s a more bitter (pill) this year ... this year I came in feeling I’d done the work and it’s slipped away,” he said afterward in the bivouac.
Whereas last year he bravely battled hand and knee injuries suffered in a fall in the seventh stage and did well to stay near the top of the leaderboard for a few days until succumbing to his physical problems, Barreda was healthy this year and stood in first place when disaster struck in Peru’s Pacific coastal desert.
“Really disappointed. I was pushing in the morning really good and I got the first riders, but then we arrived in the top of the mountain to a downhill with a lot of rocks,” Barreda said afterward.
“There was a lot of fog with low visibility. I tried to go back, but impossible to go back ... I tried to continue going down trying to find a new track, new line, but impossible to continue.”
The 35-year-old Spanish rider said he at least is fortunate to have escaped the accident unscathed, adding that given the difficulty in accessing the site he could have bled to death had he suffered a deep gash.
Asked about his misfortunes at the Dakar Rally, a race in which he has only reached the end of the final stage in five of his nine appearances and his best finish is fifth place, Barreda said he has nothing but gratitude for this event.
“I’m super thankful for what this race has given me. I’m a completely different person than I was eight years ago,” he said.
The racer added that he is healthy and can now focus on planning his 2019 season.
Barreda’s current situation is a far cry from what it was last year at this time, when he had to undergo surgery for two serious injuries.
The leader of the bikes competition at the start of Thursday’s Stage 4, a marathon stage from Arequipa to Moquegua in which assistance crews will not be allowed to repair vehicles in the bivouac at night, was Chilean Husqvarna rider Pablo Quintanilla.
The 2019 Dakar Rally, which is being held exclusively in Peru, will conclude on Jan. 17.