The bikes division of the 2021 Dakar Rally remained a revolving leaderboard Wednesday as Xavier de Soultrait took a 15-second overall lead over Joan Barreda, who won a lengthy Stage 4.
A new rider has led the bike division after each of the first four stages. Toby Price led after winning Stage 1; Barreda was first after a Stage 2 victory, and Skyler Howes had led after Stage 3.
Howes slipped Wednesday to fifth overall (5 minutes, 26 seconds behind Soultrait) after the American privateer finished 20th in an 813-kilometer stretch from Wadi Al Dawasir to Riyadh.
In an Instagram post, Howes wrote that he had navigation trouble after a decent start. After losing time while running in circles to regain the route, Howes said he had a crash in the dunes but rebounded to go “full gas all the way to the finish.
“Bit of an up and down day, but the overall isn’t looking bad with plenty of racing left,” Howes posted after the fourth of 12 stages.
The top five in the bike division entering Stage 5 are Soultrait (who finished fifth Wednesday), Bort (two stage victories), Ross Branch, Kevin Benavides and Howes.
Price, a two-time Dakar winner, is eighth overall after a 22nd in Stage 4.
Defending bikes winner Ricky Brabec finished 18th in Stage 4 and is 15th overall, 16 minutes and 21 seconds out of the lead.
The American, who had struggled in Stages 1 and 3 after starting toward the front because of his strong finishes in previous stages, posted on Instagram that “after a few hard thoughts yesterday, last night, this morning, we decided to sit back” in explaining his strategy Wednesday.
“I didn’t want to lose a lot of time today, but I didn’t want to make a lot of time,” Brabec said in an interview after Stage 4. “I just want to get the potential riders that can win this thing into one group, so that we can manage the race.”
In other divisions Wednesday:
Cars: Nasser Al-Attiyah scored his third consecutive stage victory, beating Stephane Peterhansel by 11 seconds. Hank Lategan finished third.
“It’s been difficult in these early stages to make a big difference, but I’m happy,” Al-Attiyah said.
Peterhansel, a 13-time Dakar champion, maintained an overall lead of nearly 5 minutes over Al-Attiyah.
“It felt risky to be so close to the maximum all day,” Peterhansel said.
Defending winner Carlos Sainz was third (36 minutes, 19 seconds behind) after a fifth in the stage. Sebastien Loeb was fourth overall (48 minutes, 14 seconds behind) after a fourth in Stage 4.
Side by sides/lightweight prototypes: Francisco Lopez Contardo led side by sides by 3 minutes, 18 seconds over Aron Domzala, who won Stage 4.
Seth Quintero led teammate Cristina Gutierez Herrero in the lightweight prototypes.
Quads: Nicolas Cavigliasso, who finished second to Manuel Andujar in Stage 4, led the overall over Alexandre Giroud.
Trucks: Dmitry Sotnikov maintained a 26-minute lead after his third stage victory.
STAGE 1 RESULTS: Carlos Sainz, Toby Price open with victories
STAGE 2: Ricky Brabec jumps to second; Andrew Short withdraws
STAGE 3: American privateer Skyler Howes takes lead
Cars: Nasser Al-Attiyah 3 (Stages 2, 3, 4); Carlos Sainz (Stage 1),
Bikes: Toby Price 2 (Stages 1, 3); Joan Barreda 2 (Stage 2, 4)
Side-by-sides: Austin Jones (Stage 1); Saleh Alsaif (Stage 2); Francisco Lopez Contardo (Stage 3); Aron Domzala (Stage 4)
Lightweight prototypes: Cristina Gutierrez Herrero (Stage 1); Seth Quintero 2 (Stage 2, 3); Kris Meeke (Stage 4)
Quads: Alexandre Giroud (Stage 1); Pablo Copetti (Stage 2); Nicolas Cavigliasso (Stage 3), Manuel Andujar (Stage 4)
Trucks: Dmitry Sotnikov 3 (Stage 1, 2, 4); Siarhei Viazovich (Stage 3)