Le Patron. What more to say? After last year's bashing (yes I bashed as well, mudgate was infuriating), it's good to see a different Cyril. Ever since Rally Maroc, where sadly his nemesis Marc Coma withdrew, we have seen a more humane side to him. Not to take away anything from his superb race craft, strategy, and riding. One stage win only this year, but in Rally racing, as in war, it's not the battles that count, but the entire campaign. I am in awe.
Fifth title for Cyril, one short of the great Peterhansel's 6 on bikes. I think Cyril will be gunning for that record next year. There have been rumours of an HRC contract, I'm not so sure anymore. KTM have proven they have the team, that, when the going gets tough, get their shit together and perform. Five bloody Dakar wins. HRC would be well suited to stick with the riders they have got and focus on improving the bike and the support aspects of the team.
Loved this little sequence (somebody intelligent can make one of those fancy gifs, it's from the Eurosport Stage 14 Interviews coverage)
Five freaking titles.
Not to mention his genuine appreciation of his water carrier Ruben Faria. As gutted as I am for Chaleco, second place couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy. I always wondered what the KTM water boys' potential was, and though I was counting on Pedrero this year due to Marc's absence, it seems that a good water carrier needs a bloody good Boss to follow. Not to take anything away from Pedrero, 5th overall is still a damn fine performance.
We can only speculate how well Ruben will perform in coming years if Cyril is absent, but I'm guessing pretty darn well
Third place man, Chaleco. so happy for him, he seems to have overcome more than his fair share of hardships and rotten luck, first with the under-par Geofil Aprilia team and the heartbreak of losing out to Helder for 3rd and then his horrific injuries. I was surprised at how magnanimously he accepted the engine change and the 3rd place on the podium this year, despite having to push hard on the last day to escape the claws of the amazing Slovakian privateer, Ivan Jakes. Chaleco genuinely looks like he loves riding for his country and the fans in Chile. Tip of the hat, and a fantastic comeback for him
* and on a side note, Troy brought up the matter of Cyril's engine change the night of the marathon stage (I don't remember if it was also discussed here on the day of the motor change at the rest day, I'm pretty sure it was): It would make a lot of sense, if I were a team manager, to force a water carrier to fit a new engine the day before the marathon, so if a #1 rider does
have to change, he gets his 15 minute penalty but an almost new engine. Dabrowski apparently showed a penalty of 15 minutes the day before the marathon stage which then seemingly disappeared. I never caught it, but even if he did, it would only penalise him and not Cyril. That's racing, when running at the sharp end you have to take advantage of whatever you can. I'm sure the other teams are already giving the tactic some thought for 2014...
Does that mean the F1-ification of Dakar? Possibly, but that's the route they have elected to go down. More fans on the course. Greater TV coverage (of which I am sure we are all grateful. The France 4 broadcasts were a revelation this year). Shorter, more. technical stages for smaller, more fragile bikes. Specials that seem to reward balls-to-the-wall riding. And yet, an "old school" master tactician and expert pace-setter wins again. The Dakar is becoming a bit of a paradox in regards to what it was, yet fortunately remains the ultimate off road race with the ultimate bragging rights. Alors c'est la vie, till next year...
Hopefully with more manufacturers (Kawasaki, Suzuki get your fingers out of your ass and pledge a budget for some riders FFS), more riders (Coma and Quinn come to mind), more ADV inmates to race the bloody thing and more F5ers to cheer them on.
Hope to catch more than a few of you at a rally some day