Stage Seven – Calama to Salta
Stage seven saw Simon again climb up the rankings on the highest ever stage in a Dakar Rally. The rally crossed the Andes for the first time of the 2013 edition of the Dakar, a stage that always brings about fears with altitude sickness. Coupled with temperatures as low as four degrees the competitors are being given no rest.
A prepared Simon dealt well with the high altitude and recorded his best result for several days with 58th overall, one of only a handful of riders on the whole race to make significant position gains over the previous days results.
The special stage was once again a tale of two halves. Starting out with a collection of extremely fast dusty tracks, where passing was almost impossible, the riders were left to chase the dust cloud. However after 130km the trail changed dramatically into a twisty, flowing and varied track, one that suited Simon’s technical riding style. For the rest of the stage he made great progress and once again edged up the general standings.
The liaison after the special stage also came as a surprise to the racers as the first off road connection of the rally revealed itself to be riding gem. The 170km connection was made up of a slow mountain track that weaved it’s way through the mountains at around 5000m.
Simon Pavey – “Today turned out to be a great day’s riding, I was really shocked. The liaison in the morning was really difficult, we climb the mountain so quickly and it’s really hard to stay awake on the bike. I have done it a few times now and have a good method for dealing with it, it’s not fool proof but it worked so far.
It’s silly that the organisers make the liaison tight on time too. I know they are keen to get the race across the mountains but this type of stage, it’s plain dangerous. Altitude sickness is inconsistent and it can hit anyone in a bad way. With the border crossing, I only had a few minutes to make my special stage start time, if I’d needed to stop there is no way I would have made it.
However I really enjoyed the stage. The first 130km or so was boring, fast and the dust was really bad. I was a few places behind a quad and it was holding about five of us up. I got a lucky break and managed to sneak past them all just before the trail changed into an awesome, twisty and much more fun stage. I loved every minute of it and I rode it well. It was a spectacular stage.
The liaison afterward was even better again. All the riders were expecting a wide dirt road with loads of dust, but what we got was one of the best trails I have a ever ridden. It twisted over the Andes, second gear the whole way. I rode it nice and steady because of the high altitude but it was fantastic.”
Tomorrow’s stage has been shortened to accommodate for the unexpected high rains in the region. The rally heads from Salta to San Miguel de Tucuman where they will have the rest day, marking the half way point in the race.
Simon Pavey – 58th – 02:21:58
Simon Pavey – 67th – 05:36:29