Dakar: KTM stage 14 report

KTM riders one, two, three With all competitors arriving at the Meridien Hotel in Dakar, the race is more or less over. People were crying, glad they made it, and were warmly welcomed by their families and friends. Officially there still are 16...

KTM riders one, two, three
With all competitors arriving at the Meridien Hotel in Dakar, the race is more or less over.

People were crying, glad they made it, and were warmly welcomed by their families and friends. Officially there still are 16 kilometers to go on the borders of Lac Rose, but KTM had enough reason to be happy and satisfied today. With three factory riders in first (Cyril Despres), second (David Casteu) and third (Chris Blais) positions in the oveall standings the Dakar turns out to be very succesful so far.

Many friends and sponsors welcomed Cyril Despres (KTM Gauloises) with applaus in the gardens of the Meridien, when he arrived as the unofficial winner of the 29th Dakar. Despres finished fifth in the 14th stage, from Tambacounda to Dakar. 'It was a strange day,' the Frenchman commented. 'Last year I made a mistake in navigation on this stage and it costed me over 40 minutes. Now I began the day, for the first time this Dakar, as the leader in the standings. That put some pressure on my shoulders, but not too much. I felt confident, but I was extra careful. I did not want to loose time or even the Dakar. Loosing 40 minutes today would have cost me the victory.'

Being in pole position for the last stage did not prevent Despres from sleeping well. 'I was a little bit afraid for that but I slept like a baby. My team manager had to wake me up twice this morning.'

Chris Blais (KTM Red Bull) was just trying to understand what was happening to him. The American is third in the standings and stepping on the podium tomorrow at the Lac Rose is an emotion he can not yet imagine. 'It doesn't seem real to me. It hasn't quite sunk in, and will take some time. Dakar is one long story and this is just a chapter.'

On his third Dakar, the American knew he has to stay focussed until the end. 'I am getting used to trouble in the last days, so this time I paying close attention. My worst moment was the death of Elmer Symmons, back in Morocco. I knew him well, he was in my team before. It is of some comfort to know that he died doing something he really loved.'

The best moment for Blais was today. 'Coming around that corner,' he points. 'Seeing all those people cheering and seeing the finish flags. That was a superb emotion.'

Marc Coma (KTM Repsol) confirmed in a press conference today he is doing well after his crash yesterday. 'I spent the night in the hospital,' Coma said. 'I am happy I didn't seriously hurt myself. Only my neck still hurts. I will go home to Barcelona to have medical checks for that. Everybody in the Dakar knows something like this can happen, even when you are the leading rider. I feel sorry for myself and my team, because I am sure I could have won. As soon as the doctor says it is okay, I will start training for next year's Dakar. We have learned new things and gained more experience. I will come back even stronger.'

-credit: ktm

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Cyril Despres , Marc Coma , Chris Blais