This year's Argentina-Chile Dakar rally lived up to its reputation as being the toughest race in the world. 407 competitors started and only 179 completed the gruelling 9600km route. It's probably not a record for attrition (I haven't checked) but it is was a back breaker, that's for sure.
Al-Attiyah and Sainz pushed each other hard in week two. Their spectacular (and somewhat insane) race to the finish on stage 9 demonstrated how just how hard they were fighting. (Damn! Can't find any on line video of the action! ASO issued a take down on YouTube.) With competition this intense, it was only a matter time before one of them succumbed to the pressure. Surprisingly, Sainz broke first as he started accumulating errors over the succeeding stages, which culminated in a broken suspension on stage 11. With team mate Miller's help, the damage was repaired and Sainz continued, but he had lost almost 2 hours: his rally was done. Al-Attiyah on the other hand, kept it together to claim his first Dakar victory.
The one problem with the Dakar is that the TV coverage mostly focuses on the leaders, but the real rally, the true spirit of the Dakar if you like, is the in the rest of the field. The hundreds of amateurs who are in the Dakar strictly for the adventure and who toil long hours, sometime deep into the night, to complete each stage. The organizers need to find a way to tell this story. I'm not sure how they could do it but they really should look for a way.
Next year it will be the Brazil-Peru-Paraguay Dakar! Until then, hasta luego!