CS Santosh staged a strong comeback from his start at 85th to finish Monday's stage 50th amongst the 160 bikers that started.
After the first day of comparatively easy riding with a relatively short stage of 175 kms, the Dakar went hardcore on Monday.
It's apparent that the organisers were looking to separate the chaff from the main men as the longest stage of the 37th edition hit the competitors smack on.Flying into San Juan, it was obvious that the competitors would be facing extremely arid terrain. The temperature in the city hovered in the vicinity of 40 degree Celsius and that implies hard riding with a lot of sweat involved. A high endurance level was key.
"I was flowing really well for the first 400 kms. Then I hit fesh-fesh (very fine, powdery sand) and had a bad fall. In fact, I fell about ten times in those 30-odd kilometres. After that, we hit some dunes which were undulating highs and lows. By then my rhythm was gone and I struggled to the finish," he said.
When informed that he had climbed up to 50th in the standings, he was shocked and elated at the same time. "That's pretty good considering where I started from and the number of falls I had. I could hardly ride the last 120 kms of the stage," he said massaging his left shoulder.
The big fall saw him hurt his left shoulder and thigh but he said it wasn't "that bad" and that he was still able to ride. "I'll get better as the days go on."
Santosh registered a timing of seven hours and 16 minutes. The fastest rider of the day was an hour and a half ahead of him.
It was terribly hot on the stage. "We were cooking inside the suit and came off the stage drenched and dripping with sweat."
Things only got complicated on account of the dust. "It was difficult to overtake and then, after I had my big fall, it was very poor visibility whenever someone overtook me."
Daylight in this part of the world lasts a considerable time longer than back home in India. The sun rose at about 6.20 am and sunset is scheduled past nine at night. That allows the Dakar a considerable window to ensure that all competitors, especially amongst bikes, reach the night's bivouac well before nightfall.However, given the way the top riders were struggling with the stage, it was decided to truncate it for later straggling riders.
Meanwhile, overnight leader Sam Sunderland lost his way for more than two hours to finish the stage placed 72nd.
Last year's winner Marc Coma had tyre trouble that sucked away his speed for about 60 kms towards stage end as he had to slow down to prevent a mishap.
Santosh's teammate Toby Price did exceptionally well considering this is his first Dakar by coming in fifth. The fastest motorcyclist of the day was Bort Barreda, who registered 5:46:06 to take the lead.
By the end of Monday's action, Santosh had traversed a total distance of 1463 kms in this year's Dakar.
Naseer Al-Attiyah from Qatar continued his fine showing in his Mini by staying in the lead. Stephane Peterhansel slipped from overnight third to 27th in his Peugeot.Meanwhile, five-time Dakar winner in the bike category, Cyril Despres, struggled amongst the cars to register the 25th best timing for the day.