Comprising a route of close to 80 per cent off-piste terrain, stage two of the Desafio Ruta 40 proved to be one of the toughest days of the 2018 championship so far.
Despite being relatively short with a timed special measuring 317.74km, the rough nature of the stage really tested the riders’ strength and endurance to their limits.
Following his fourth place on Monday’s stage one, Red Bull KTM Factory’s Toby Price set off from the bivouac Tuesday morning with the aim of making up time lost due to a faulty GPS tracker.
Price pushed right from the start and made up the deficit by the stage’s halfway point. Riding a smooth but fast pace over the technical terrain, the Australian’s time of just under four hours 17 minutes was enough to take the stage win and in turn, the lead in the provisional overall standings.
Toby Price: “That was a much better stage for me, although it was extremely tiring due to the nature of the route. There was a lot of off-track work through fesh-fesh and camel grass and it really took it out of you physically.
“With no GPS issues I was able to push hard today and caught the guys in front. After that I kept to a good solid pace and aimed to ride as smooth as possible to stay safe and conserve some energy.”
Also enjoying a successful stage two, Matthias Walker came home in second place, just two minutes 17 seconds behind teammate Price.
Despite not finding the gruelling Argentinian timed special too enjoyable to ride, Walkner was still able to maintain a fast pace over the rocky ground and now sits third in the provisional overall standings.
Matthias Walkner: “That was a long, tough day for me. Of the 320km so much was rough, off-piste riding that the stage felt a lot longer than it was. The pace is so high, and in some sections you really have to rely on your road book to warn of the dangers as you are covering the ground so fast.”
The best Monster Energy Honda Team rider was Paulo Goncalves. The Portuguese ace performed well on the stage and with some neat riding and navigation skills managed to minimize the handicap of having to start from the front, while leaving tracks for his rivals to follow.
By the time Paulo had arrived at Tinogasta, he had scored the fourth fastest time of the day and had conceded just seven minutes to stage winner Price.
Paulo Goncalves: “Today was one of the hardest stages I’ve had in my entire life. 320 kilometres practically everything off-piste, with dry rivers and very broken up track. I did pretty well with the navigation, there were stretches of 20 or 30 kilometres of the course, without waypoints.
“I did quite well, opening the track and also managed to reach the finish line first. I’m a little sad about Mathias’ fall, but I hope it is not very serious and he will be able to get over it soon.”