Spanish veteran Carlos Sainz, the 2010 and 2018 champion, consolidated his overall lead of the Dakar Rally after winning Thursday’s fifth stage, his 34th stage victory in the race being held this year in Saudi Arabia.
The 57-year-old Mini driver clocked 3hr 52min 01sec around the 563km (353km special) route from Al Ula to Hail through boulder-strewn, sandy surroundings including hills occasionally scattered with desert grass.
Sainz finished 2min 56sec ahead of his main rival, defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar in his Toyota.
“We gained three minutes and pushed really hard at the end,” said Sainz.
“I’m very happy because the car is working well. I had a flat tyre at the start of the special, but I managed to make up the time.”
Sainz added: “I’m doing the best I can, but tomorrow when we open the route, maybe it will be completely different.”
Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, nicknamed ‘Mr Dakar’ for his 13 victories in the marathon rally, followed up on his victory in Wednesday’s fourth stage with a third-placed finish, 6:11 off Sainz’s pace.
“It was a completely different kind of stage today. For us it was not really perfect because we had two punctures,” bemoaned Peterhansel.
“One at the beginning on a rock, but also one slow puncture on the dunes. I don’t know why, maybe just a small piece of bush.
“So we had to stop two times and the second time Carlos overtook me and I tried to follow him on the dunes and the camel grass, but he was really fast.”
Peterhansel’s multiple victories in the Dakar have come seven times in a car and six times on a motorbike, and he likened the final run-in to this stage as being on two wheels.
“Carlos pushed a lot and I was really at my limit to stay within reach of him. After that, we overtook Nasser and took three minutes from him before finishing all three cars together, like a final in motocross,” the Frenchman said.
There was a second stage victory in the motorbike category for Australian KTM rider Toby Price.
The defending champion came through the finish line 1:12 ahead of Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla, with his Husqvarna teammate Andrew Short of the United States in third (+2:31).
American Ricky Brabec (Honda) finished fourth to retain his lead of the overall standings, 9:06 ahead of Price.
“The race is really close,” Brabec conceded. “Toby made a few minutes on me, I caught (third-placed) Kevin (Benavides) today.
“Tomorrow could be tricky. We’ll have to see what happens.”
There was drama, however, as Britain’s Sam Sunderland, the 2017 winner and sixth overall at the start of the day, was forced to withdraw from the Dakar after what organisers called a “severe fall” halfway through the stage that left him with back and left shoulder injuries.
Friday sees the cavalcade take on a 830km sixth stage (477km special) from Hail to the Saudi capital of Riyadh before a rest day on Saturday.
Athletes reflect on super congested 2022 international season
Will it be possible to double or not?
That is the question that has seen both coaches and athletes going into spin with the World Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games falling in the same period in 2022.
This state of affairs could now force Athletics Kenya to name separate teams in most events for the two world competitions.
On Wednesday, World Athletics announced that the World Championships that had been postponed from this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic will now be staged from July 15 to 24 in Oregon, United States.
The 22nd Commonwealth Games will take place from July 27 to August 7 in Birmingham, England.
World Athletics postponed the World Championships that were to originally take place in July next year in Oregon after the International Olympic Committee rescheduled the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games from July 24-August 9 to July 23-August 8, 2021.
Renowned athletics coach Bernard Ouma and elite athletes, World and Commonwealth 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri, 2015 World javelin champion Julius Yego and 2016 Rio Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich expressed different opinion after the changes.
Ouma said it will be difficult for athletes especially in middle and long distances races to double especially with fatigue creeping while Yego, the 2014 Commonwealth javelin champion, noted that top elite athlete are likely to choose the World Championships over the Commonwealth Games.
Chepng’etich, who won the World 1,500m title in 2017 London before settling for silver in 2019 Doha, said that it will difficult for someone to double with health and form key factors.
Obiri, the 2016 Rio Olympics 5,000m silver medallist, who retained her World title in Doha last year also said it would be difficult for someone to double considering there was also the Diamond League and World Continental Tour events.
“Commonwealth Games will take two weeks hence it will take an excellent athlete to double. Actually, doubling will not be the best option since. It could be a costly gamble,” said Ouma.
UK-based Sesay ‘100 per cent ready’ for Kenya call-up
Crawley Town’s English defender David Sesay has seemingly had a change of heart on playing for Kenya.
While responding to questions from his fans on the English club’s official Twitter account on Wednesday, the League Two defender said that he is now ready to answer a call up from Kenya’s Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi.
“I will hundred per cent accept the call up from Kenya,” he confirmed.
The 21-year-old defender was called up for international duty by then Stars coach Sebastien Migne in the run up to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt last year, but declined the invite to concentrate on his club career.
Sesay explained he had to make a difficult decision in turning down the opportunity to compete at the Africa Nations Cup in Cairo, where Kenya lost to eventual finalists Senegal and Algeria, and beat rivals Tanzania in Group “C”, as he was focused in helping his side battle relegation at the time.
“That (Kenya) is where my mum comes from. It is my heritage. Last time I had just broken into the first team here and was playing games in a row,” said Sesay.
“We were not in the best position in the league. There were some few media outlets in Kenya that said I declined the call up, that wasn’t the case.
I think those that needed to understand my decision did understand.”
Should Kimanzi hand the West Bromwich Albion-target a chance in his team, he will have to compete for a starting position at left-back with Sweden based defender Eric “Marcelo” Ouma, and veteran Aboud Omar who is unattached.
Stars face a congested fixture period when the coronavirus pandemic is curbed, with matches against Comoros, Egypt and Togo in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The team is also pooled alongside Uganda, Rwanda and Mali in the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
League Two is England’s fourth tier football league.
Mass exodus looms at Gor Mahia
Gor Mahia are on the verge of losing four key senior players.
Nation Sport has established that the four are no longer interested in playing for Gor Mahia and intent to leave the club at the end of this season.
The four, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised while still under contract and with the season yet to end, said their decision would not change even if Gor Mahia secured a major shirt sponsor.
The players said they were fed up with Gor Mahia repeatedly failing to meet its financial obligation to the squad members and it was better for them to look for greener pastures.
“It has been tough at Gor Mahia since the sponsorship of SportPesa ended. I can’t blame the club management for the current financial woes but as a player, I have dependents whom I have to look after. I have bills to pay,” said the players.
They also blamed Gor Mahia officials for “abandoning the club and leaving all the management burden to the chairman Ambrose Rachier” who has been struggling to ensure they are paid, however little money it is.
“Personally, if all goes well I will leave but am indebted to the chairman who has been there for us during hard times. I am not afraid to say that other officials have abandoned us in time of need. Whenever there is an issue, we are always told to talk to the chairman who sometimes gets to us personally and assists. We are grateful for that,” said one of the players.
They called on the government to chip in and financially assist community-based clubs like Gor and AFC Leopards so that they can return back to their glory days.
They wondered how money from the Sport Fund was now being channelled to other functions yet sportspeople were going hungry and begging for food.
The Kenyan Premier League is currently suspended following a government ban on public gatherings in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic that has already caused the death of seven people in the country.
With no action, no source of income and a season in limbo, many KPL clubs remain hard pressed to pay their contracted players.
Fifa on Tuesday proposed that contracts of players be extended until such time that the season does actually end.
Fifa, in the same communication, encouraged clubs and players to work together to find agreements and solutions during the period when football is suspended.
Nation Sport understands that Tanzanian giants Azam and Young Africans are keen on the services of three of the four players who want out.
The other player said he has been in negotiating with Tunisian giants Esperance.
Yanga SC and Simba have lately been raiding K’Ogalo’s camp for fresh talent.
Former K’Ogalo stars Francis Kahata and Meddie Kagera signed for Simba in 2019 and 2018 respectively while Ivorian striker Yikpe Ghislain, who played for less than a season at K’Ogalo, left for Yanga amid financial tribulation at the 18-time Kenyan Premier League champions last December.
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