Adrien Van Beveren has raced to an impressive victory on the penultimate stage of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ahead of Matthias Walkner and Joaquim Rodrigues.
The Frenchman’s second stage win of the event highlights his exceptional form throughout the rally so far and with just one day of racing to go, he now lies less than five minutes behind the provisional leader.
The penultimate stage of the Abu Dhabi desert challenge once again provided a physically demanding test for all riders. Opening with rolling sand dunes, the terrain then switched to fast, desert tracks to ultimately offer a much more diverse stage compared to previous days of the event.
Returning to the form that brought him so much success in the past, Van Beveren has claimed another stage win at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Demonstrating excellent navigation, and confidence to push hard throughout the mixed terrain stage, the 30-year-old sustained his high pace to secure victory and maintain his third-place ranking in the overall provisional classification.
“Today was another good day for me,” Van Beveren said. “I pushed really hard early on before the refuelling station as it was really heavy sand dunes so I was able to follow some lines and maintain a high pace. After refuelling the terrain was a lot less challenging and quite fast and with everyone riding at a similar speed, it wasn’t possible to make up more time. One more day to go and I’ll be fighting right to the end.”
As runner-up on stage three, Matthias Walkner entered the day’s special second, aiming to chase down and catch Daniel Sanders ahead of him. Reaching his opponent just before the refueling point, the two then completed the latter half of the stage together, pushing each other to maintain a solid pace through the sands of the Liwa Desert.
Despite opening much of the special, Walkner was able to deliver a performance strong enough to ultimately finish less than one minute behind Van Beveren. The world champion’s speed and consistency throughout the rally have resulted in him increasing his advantage at the close of day four to almost four minutes, with just the fifth and final stage remaining.
“Another really cool, enjoyable day,” Walkner reflected. “I pushed right from the start and was able to catch Daniel by around kilometer 100, and from there, the two of us rode together, swapping the lead for the rest of the stage. It seemed to work out well as I was able to put in a good time, despite opening a lot of the stage from the front. I have a good lead and a good start position for stage five, but there is still work to do. I’ll head out and try to enjoy it tomorrow, hopefully, put in a good result and secure the win. I’m definitely looking forward to reaching the finish!”
Joaquim Rodrigues, who has been delivering strong results through the rally registered his best finish so far. Riding steadily in a very fast stage that alternated between dunes and valleys, he finished in fourth place.
“It was definitely a better day for me and I am slowly regaining my energy,” Rodrigues said. “It was a really fast stage and there were some dangerous sections in the desert, so I did my best to be careful. I heard about Buhler’s crash when I reached the bivouac. I wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him riding with us at the Dakar.”
Still in only his first full year of FIM Cross-Country Rallies competition, Daniel Sanders put in a fast, mature ride from the front of day four, doing exactly what was required to ultimately secure a top-four placing and successfully defend his second-place position in the overall standings.
Completing the stage in fourth, the Australian lost less than three minutes on the rally leader and will now enjoy an advantageous start position for Thursday’s stage five. Holding a near one-minute lead over the third-placed rider, the pressure is still on, and Sanders will need to deliver a solid ride on the event’s final day to ensure a runner-up-or-better result when he reaches the checkered flag.
“Day four and I got to open today, which was really cool! Walkner caught me at about 100 kilometers, just before the refueling, but I was happy with how things went for the time I was out front,” Sanders said. “I didn’t make any big mistakes and the pace was good, so that’s really encouraging. The second half of the stage opened out into some faster tracks, which I really enjoyed, so that was cool. All-in-all it was a really good day. I’m in a good position to push again tomorrow and hopefully I can finish off the rally with a top result.”
The 379.86 kilometer final stage of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will test riders once again with a mixture of open sand dunes and fast tracks on a timed special of 216.92km, with competitors ultimately returning to the event finish at the famous Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi
Stage 4 Provisional Classification
1 Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 3:10:02
2 Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:10:56 + 0:00:54
3 Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero) 3:13:00 + 0:02:58
4 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:13:48 + 0:03:46
5 Aaron Mare (KTM) 3:21:30 + 0:11:28
6 Ross Branch (Yamaha) 3:26:37 + 0:16:35
Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 4)
1 Matthias Walkner (KTM) 15:05:20
2 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 15:09:10 + 0:03:50
3 Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 15:10:06 + 0:04:46
4 Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero) 15:33:53 + 0:28:33
5 Aaron Mare (KTM) 16:42:30 + 1:16:16
6 Konrad Dabrowski (KTM) 17:37:40 + 2:37:19