Bisha to Wadi Al Dawasir
457km special – 685km total
The second stage started with soft, energy-sapping sand dunes, before the course opened out to sandy tracks through deep canyons.
Opening the stage compromised Price’s performance, getting stuck in the dunes several times, with his day further complicated by a fuel tank problem. Walkner had a worse day, losing over two hours with a clutch issue. While he was able to finish the stage, Walkner was effectively out of the race.
Mixed fortunes for the Monster Energy Yamaha Team saw Ross Branch finish fourth and Andrew Short retire with a mechanical problem.
The Monster Energy Hondas dominated the second stage, though, with Barreda taking the stage win – his 25th - and inheriting the overall lead, with Brabec second.
“We were forced to attack from the very first kilometre until the end and the truth is that it went well,” Barred said. “But this is only the second stage and we know that tomorrow it will be difficult starting from the front once again.”
- Joan BARREDA Honda 04h17m56s
- Ricky BRABEC Honda +00h03m55s
- Pablo QUINTANILLA Husqvarna +00h06m02s
- Joan BARREDA Honda 08h15m38s
- Ricky BRABEC Honda +00h06m23s
- Ross BRANCH Yamaha +00h06m37s
Price – 15th, Sanders – 18th, Burgess – 42nd, Houlihan – 68th (Overall).
Wadi Al Dawasir loop
403km Special – 630km total
Another day of soft sand dunes, sandy tracks and rocky trails, but it was the navigation, not the terrain that was dictating the results. The particularly challenging navigation on this year’s course was having a yo-yo effect on the results, where the rider who won the previous day’s stage and led the field would lose time with navigation problems before finding the correct path, benefitting those who followed.
Price, who finished 28th on Stage 2, won Stage 3 by over a minute from Honda’s Benavides.
KTM privateer Skyler Howes finished the day fourth, taking the overall lead after Barreda lost time finding waypoints, while rookie Sanders rode to a second successive top ten finish.
"It's difficult to lead a stage out from the front as you can lose a lot of time, and then you have to push hard the next day to make it all up again,” Price explained. “I think if it carries on like this, the battle for the win is going to go down to the very last day.”
- Toby PRICE KTM 03h33m23s
- Kevin BENAVIDES Honda +00h01m16s
- Matthias WALKNER KTM +00h02m36s
- Skyler HOWES KTM 12h04m48s
- Kevin BENAVIDES Honda +00h00m33s
- Xavier DE SOULTRAIT Husqvarna +00h01,28s
Price – 4th, Sanders – 16th, Burgess – 41st, Houlihan – 69th (Overall).
Wadi Al Dawasir to Riyadh
337km special – 813km total
One of the fastest special stages so far played right into Joan Barreda’s hands and he took advantage to record his second stage win for 2021 and 26th in total. The result also continued a back-and-forth battle between the Spaniard and Toby Price over stage wins.
Sanders found the mostly open conditions to his liking, too, taking third on the stage and moving up to 14th overall.
“I didn’t have any issues for the first 100km or so and was able to close in on the front pack of riders,” Sanders said. “I just kept pushing and was able to correct a couple of mistakes that the guys out front made, so that put me up on time.”
Leading the field out, Price was on track to repeat his Stage 3 success, but some late navigation problems benefitted not only Barreda but more than 20 others, as he finished the stage in 22nd place.
Some riders were now starting to race tactically, regulating their pace so they didn’t win the stage, and in turn, not have to lead the field out the next day.
- Joan BARREDA Honda 02h46m50s
- Ross BRANCH Yamaha +00h05m57s
- Daniel SANDERS KTM +00h06m09s
- Xavier DE SOULTRAIT Husqvarna 15h00m25s
- Joan BARREDA Honda +00h00m15s
- Kevin BENAVIDES Honda +00h03m24s
Price – 8th, Sanders – 14th, Burgess – 38th, Houlihan – 67th (Overall).