Adrien Van Beveren has won stage two of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ahead of Matthias Walkner and Daniel Sanders.
The Frenchman was faultless through the longest special stage of the event and now moves up to second place in the overall provisional classification behind Walkner. Stage one winner Ross Branch remains well placed among the leaders in fourth after finishing fourth on the stage.
Stage two’s terrain provided a seriously physical test, the riders raced for well over four hours and covered over 330 kilometres of rolling, power-sapping sand dunes, which pushed machinery and riders to the absolute limits.
As the fifth rider to enter stage two, Adrien Van Beveren capitalised by following in the wheel tracks of those who opened the special. Able to focus on his riding and maintain a high pace throughout the special, the Frenchman was in his element racing through the endless sand dunes that formed a large part of the stage. In taking a well-deserved victory, Van Beveren now advances to second place in the overall provisional classification.
“I’ve had a really good day and I’m really happy to have won today,” Van Beveren said. “I made up a lot of time before refuelling and with some calculations, I thought it would be possible to catch the leaders on the stage. My speed was good but I came up a little short. Today’s stage had the perfect terrain for me, so I’m really pleased that I could show what I can do when it’s almost all sand dunes like it was today. It’s still early in the rally and tomorrow I will open the stage so it’s likely that I will lose some time, but I will do my best to minimise that and focus on my navigation to ensure another strong result.”
Following his excellent ride to second place on day one, Matthias Walkner soon found himself opening stage two, having caught day one winner Ross Branch. The two riders battled it out for the first half of the stage, swapping positions at the front, right up to the refuelling station.
In the second half of the special, Walkner continued to push over the mixed terrain, and in doing so, left his rivals behind. The reigning FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion used his extensive skill and experience to maintain his speed and position, despite navigating his own way through the sand.
Finishing second fastest for the day, Walkner moves up into the provisional lead of the event, over two-and-a-half minutes ahead of Van Beveren. With three days left to race, Walkner will set off second on tomorrow’s stage, aiming to maintain his overall advantage.
“Another day done, and it was a tough one!” Walkner reflected. “Setting off this morning I thought that by the end of the stage most of the riders behind would have caught up with those opening the special. At the refueling we could see that wasn’t the case, so Ross and I decided to keep pushing to see if we could stay out front. We took it in turns to open with each rider leading the way for 30km or so. For the last 100km I found myself alone out front and just gave it my all. I really was pushing hard and, thankfully, everything went well, and I was able to bring it home for a good, safe finish. The long stage took it out of me, so I’ll try to relax now and recharge before tomorrow.”
Daniel Sanders struggled to find his rhythm and speed but used his ever-growing experience to ease his pace a little to minimize any major mistakes in the vast area of dunes. A couple of crashes slowed his forward momentum a little but by the halfway point, the Aussie was back on the gas and able to go for it and attack the tracks to the finish.
Third fastest on the day, Sanders holds his provisional third place position in the overall standings. And as his confidence continues to grow, the 27-year-old hopes to maintain his string of strong results right to the finish of the event.
“Day two went ok for me, but not as well as I’d hoped,” Sanders reflected. “I found it hard to get into a good rhythm early on – I had a couple more scary calls with some drops as I’m still learning how to read the terrain here in the desert. I had a couple of crashes too – one gave me quite a knock and I ended up in a hole in the dunes. I had to dig the bike out a little and that cost me some time. I got to the refuel and managed to get some food and water into me, recharged and felt a lot better after that. For the second half of the stage, I felt a lot better and managed to find a good pace. The terrain suited me better too, with more tracks and plateaus. I finished third-fastest today, which puts me in a good spot for tomorrow.”
Stage one winner, Ross Branch, posted an impressive result on day two despite a small crash, completing the special as the fourth fastest rider. Faced with the arduous task of opening the stage, his recent focus on navigational skills paid dividends with the 35-year-old completing the special just over eight minutes behind teammate Van Beveren.
“It was a bit of an up and down day today,” Branch said. “It started off really well and I’m happy with my navigation as I lead the stage all the way to around kilometre 160. This was great for my confidence knowing that I can navigate well through sand dunes where a mistake could cost a lot of time. Unfortunately, at around 290 kilometres I jumped off the top of dune like usual, tucked the front, and crashed. It broke my navigational tower but as it happened near the end I didn’t lose too much time. The focus is now on tomorrow and I’ll be giving it my best shot as always.”
Stage three of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge covers a total distance of 327.62 kilometers and will see riders take on a timed special of 293 kilometers.
Stage 2 Provisional Classification
1 Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 4:24:34
2 Matthias Walkner (KTM) 4:26:56 + 0:02:22
3 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 4:27:35 + 0:03:01
4 Ross Branch (Yamaha) 4:32:36 + 0:08:02
5 Aaron Mare (KTM) 4:40:16 + 0:15:42
6 Sebastian Buhler (Hero) 4:41:08 + 0:16:34
Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 2)
1 Matthias Walkner (KTM) 7:52:31
2 Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 7:55:10 + 0:02:38
3 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 7:56:13 + 0:03:41
4 Ross Branch (Yamaha) 7:58:07 + 0:05:36
5 Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero) 8:16:27 + 0:23:56
6 Andrew Short (Yamaha) 8:16:28 + 0:23:57