Joan Pedrero flying the Sherco TVS Factory Rally Team flag high at Dakar 2018 ahead of Bolivia leg
The first six stages of the 2018 Dakar Rally have been extremely competitive, with the toughest rally now moving into the Bolivian leg, having completed the stages held in Peru. Experienced Spaniard Joan Pedrero has been the most consistent and impressive rider for the Sherco TVS Factory Rally Team with Indian rider Aravind KP impressing in a couple of stages in what is only his second Dakar Rally.
The first leg of the Dakar Rally in Peru was all about negotiating the sand effectively, with the varying terrain adding to the difficulties for the riders. Stage one saw the Indian outfit get off to a solid start. Kicking off from the Peruvian capital, Lima, the stage saw Adrian Metge finish in 23rd position, just ahead of teammate Joan Pedrero, who ended in 24th position. Aravind put in a good performance as well, finishing the stage in 30th position to cap off a good leg for the team.
The second stage brought some bad news for TVS Sherco, with French rider Metge involved in an accident that saw him suffer a broken ankle. Despite the misfortune, the other two riders kept their focus, riding well in a generally unconventional stage, relying on their navigation expertise to guide them through. Pedrero finished 23rd despite losing 10-15 minutes due to a breakdown prior to the refuelling, while Aravind lost ground on the leaders as he ended the day in 40th position.
Stage 3 took the riders from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona in what was a very difficult ride full of dust and sand and navigation issues. The longest stage of the rally so far saw the riders cover a distance of 501 km. Despite the difficult terrain, TVS Sherco riders navigated the stage expertly and gaining multiple positions. Joan Pedrero Garcia utilised his experience and skill to finish in 16th place. His expertise not only helped him, but competitors too, who followed him on the difficult trail to ensure they don't make any mistakes. Aravind KP put in another good performance and improved his position by 10, ending the stage in 30th place, impressing everyone with his handling of the bike.
Pedrero sustained his improvement from the previous stage, ending stage four in 17th position as well. A stage with the longest stretch of sand dunes lasting for up to 100 kms was negotiated well by team TVS, with the riders working hard to get past the dunes and the rocks. As was noticed by team manager David Casteau, the Spaniard attacked the leading pack in the soft sand while choosing wisely to back off in other demanding stretches. Aravind kept the Indian flag flying with another finish, this time coming in 44th position and getting praise for his attentiveness and fitness.
Stage five saw the end of Aravind's 2018 Dakar as he was forced to abandon his ride after suffering a bad fall that broke his ankle. After having been 33rd in the overall standings after the first four stages, his unfortunate injury saw him drop out of the classification. With 268 km of sand dunes and then mountainous terrain, this stage was the toughest so far as riders fought hard to complete the 770 km long journey to Arequipa. Joan Pedrero continued his run of strong performances, finishing in 18th place.
The sixth stage of the rally saw the action move from Peru to Bolivia as riders traversed through the 758 km long stretch from Arequipa to La Paz. Leaving the dunes behind, they moved on to unpredictable weather and mountainous terrain as the day saw rain, snow and ice in conditions that were very tough for the riders. The weather also saw the Peruvian leg of the stage cancelled as the riders went all out on the first fast route of the Rally. Joan Pedrero immediately showed why he is very good in high altitudes and mountainous terrain as he showcased his pace, finishing the stage in 15th position to continue his climb up the rankings ladder.
With the rally set to be in higher altitudes and fast-paced routes for the next three stages in Bolivia before moving on to Argentina, Pedrero is primed to take advantage of his good start to the 2018 Dakar and break into the top 10. The bikers will have to change software and get ready for long stretches of good navigation before they hit the sand dunes at a high altitude. TVS Sherco's star rider Joan Pedrero Garcia is currently 15th in the overall classification, trailing leader Kevin Benavides of Argentina by 53 minutes and 26 seconds, having accrued only one penalty of one minute so far.
Benavides himself overtook previous leader Adrien Van Beveren after putting in a near flawless performance to finish in second place in stage six, tying with Australian Toby Price. With Pedrero the lone rider from TVS Sherco still in the running, he will be looking to close the gap to the leaders before the Dakar Rally moves to Argentina as he looks to accomplish another top 10 finish.