Not unlike a certain scarlet Formula 1 team, in the bike category of the Dakar, the top outfits boast a clear hierarchy between first and second drivers – or, in this case, riders.
The reason, when it comes to the world’s toughest rally, is quite practical: extra parts and equipment comprise a significant weight for the relatively light bike/rider combination. In order to increase a team’s winning chances, it makes perfect sense that one rider should concentrate all the weight, thus freeing a leading rider to run lightly and battle for first place.
That former rider is know as the “water carrier”, and his task is clear: ride conservatively and help his teammate challenge for the overall victory in every possible manner.
Theoretically, that is. In the 2011 Dakar, a Portuguese man is apparently challenging the status quo. Ruben Faria, water carrier for three-time and defending winner Cyril Despres at Red Bull KTM, has been the fastest man in two of the six stages contested before the rest day. He could be even closer to the battle for overall victory had he not been deprived of his Stage 1 win due to a 10-minute penalty caused by speeding.
“As Cyril's water carrier, I always ride sensibly but there are times when I can take advantage of the situation,” celebrated the Portuguese after winning Stage 6 between Iquique and Arica in Chile. “I think Cyril will be happy for me.”
After six stages, Faria now runs fifth on the overall standings, 29min54s behind leader Marc Coma. Despres is Coma’s nearest challenger, 8min48s behind the Spaniard.