7.15 p.m. Due to bad weather conditions (strong winds, vision below 300 m) the officials have decided to reduce the length of tomorrow's stage from the original 656 km to 400 km. 7.10 p.m. Despres dominated dune stage After a well deserved...
Due to bad weather conditions (strong winds, vision below 300 m) the officials have decided to reduce the length of tomorrow's stage from the original 656 km to 400 km.
Despres dominated dune stage
After a well deserved rest day on the Dakar usually follows a rather easy stage. For the previous years, the day after was designed to help the participants getting accustomed to their bikes and used to the desert again. But this year the organizers had something different in mind. The 483 km special looping around Atar can surely be called one of the toughest stages, which was crossing through dunes, in the history of the Dakar. But one person was meant to conquer it all, without much trying as it seemed. Cyril Despres has made his imprint on this stage. He dominated it in a cunning way, won the day and has made his clear claim on the victory of this 27th edition of the toughest desert rally. When passing the finish line the Frenchman had a 10 minute and 8 seconds lead on Fabrizio Meoni, which his teammate clearly admired. "Early in the stage I caught up with Isidre Esteve. I had the impression that I was moving at a brisk pace. But when Cyril caught up with us I realized just who was riding fast today. This morning he had left 10 minutes after me."
His joy about leading the overall standings was therefore short-lived. Now Despres has a clear 9'13 minutes lead. "Now the rally has really started," he smiled, "I have found my rhythm. My bike tipped over twice in the dunes, but I believe that has happened to everyone today. I didn't run into any problems. I'm simply just happy!" We'll have to wait and see what prints the pleasant young man will draw in the sand during the next days. It looks that he finally talks business.
The dunes of today's stage have left a great impression on many. One of them is the man in third place, Isidre Esteve Pujol (Team KTM Repsol-Red Bull, + 12'24). He claimed, "The dunes after the second CP were gigantic. Crossing them was very difficult for me." Another competitor, Alfie Cox, who came in 6th today (+16'62) was deeply moved, "I have been riding the Dakar for quite some time now, but never before have I seen dunes like these. The sand was unbelievably deep and it surely was not an easy task to cross them!"
Marc Coma, a young promising talent from Spain, had to pay toll for his temperament today. Attacking had been on his agenda. But he had lost track of his fuel gauge. "In the beginning I really opened the throttle and was riding at a brisk pace, but I ran out of gasoline another 4 kilometers before the refueling spot. Luckily Jo Sala caught up with me quickly. It was for his help that I could ride on." In the end he claimed a 5th spot (+ 14'06). In the overalls he is in third (+ 16'02). It is worth a thought to imagine where Coma could rank now...
Andy Caldecott (place 7, + 18'51) learned the hard way today. "I'm still missing a great deal of experience riding the dunes. But that is why I'm here. I want to learn." Scot Harden started riding with a handicap this morning. He explained, "Already on the last stage I had to make a wide step; to almost spread my legs to a complete split. I pulled the muscle in my tight and it tore." The doctors have done a maximum to treat it most efficiently. "They did a great job. I still cannot walk all that well, but it is okay to sit and ride on a motorcycle." Therefore the guy from the US was satisfied arriving in Atar in the 20th spot (+ 1h23'57). After all he'll still be able to keep on going.
Pal-Anders Ullevalseter on the other hand had to retire from the rally. The KTM private rider crashed at kilometer 410 and broke his left shoulder. He had to be transported via helicopter to the finish in Atar.
Today's stage was overshadowed by sad news. José Manuel Perez died of severe inner injuries in the hospital at Alicante. On January 6th he had crashed just before CP 1 on the difficult stage from Zouerat to Tichit. The medical emergency staff transported him to the next bivouac at Zouerat immediately. An emergency operation followed. Still on the same day he was transported via Dakar to Alicante. Hans Trunkenpolz, KTM team manager, stated, "After Richard Sainct's fatal accident we all know how it feels to loose someone. It is a very painful experience. We offer sympathy to the relatives."
A 656 km stage is on tomorrow's agenda. Until the participants reach the finish line in Kiffa (Mali) they will have to cross plenty of dunes and deep sandy passages. Marc Coma and the others will have to keep an eye on their fuel gauge! Also Cyril Despres will have to pay close attention especially to the first part of the stage. Last year a crucial navigation mistake happened here and he ended up loosing more than half an hour. It is a mistake which shouldn't happen again if he wants to stay ahead of the pack. They'll cross through the valleys of the massive Tangat and ride along the rocky road to the Naga crossing.
Slowly but forcefully he gets down to business. Cyril Despres (Team KTM Gauloises) superbly dominated the 10th stage looping around Atar and claimed the stage's victory. He seems to have spent yesterday's rest day most efficiently. His attack on the leadership was successful and his opponents were declassified, at least for now. He reached the finish line with a great 10 minutes and 8 second lead on Fabrizio Meoni (Team KTM Gauloises), previous leader of the overalls. Isidre Esteve Pujol (Team KTM Repsol-Red Bull, + 12'24) clocked the third fastest time.
Right at the beginning of the 499 km stage (483 km were judged) the competitors had to challenge an Erg which stretched for 40 km. After that the route led challengingly uphill over the top of the Thanga crossing and continued on through successive dune fields. Among them the competitors probably found the most challenging dunes ever to be crossed in a Dakar rally. And finally the track led through the 200 km Sebkhet Chemchâm Schott. Despres managed all of these tasks flawlessly.