Dakar: Stage three report

Caldecott first to triumph in Africa After a boat crossing yesterday evening from Malaga to Nador, the competitors of the 2006 Euromilhoes Lisboa-Dakar enjoyed their first kilometres on African soil. The bike race saw late starter Andy ...

Caldecott first to triumph in Africa

After a boat crossing yesterday evening from Malaga to Nador, the competitors of the 2006 Euromilhoes Lisboa-Dakar enjoyed their first kilometres on African soil. The bike race saw late starter Andy Caldecott clock the fastest time of the 314km special. The new overall leader on two wheels is title holder Cyril Despres. The car special went to Jean-Louis Schlesser while the new overall leader is Mitsubishi's Nani Roma.

It was 'Farewell Portugal' and 'Welcome to Africa' for the competitors of the Dakar. Three ships indeed took the bikers, drivers, co-drivers and all their vehicles for a 7 hour crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. Early this morning the first bikers took off for a long 672km stage between Nador and Er Rachidia in Morocco. After a 237 liaison, Ruben Faria (KTM -- n160) winner of yesterday's special was the first to take off for his timed effort. But the flying Portuguese was, as expected, not as impressive on the Moroccan tracks as he was back home in Algarve. He eventually finished 34th at 26' of the winner.

The day's stage went to late starter Andy Caldecott (KTM -- n10) who took off in 25th position. The Australian went on to clock the fastest times at the two CPs and reached the finish line in a time of 3h21'11". A huge satisfaction for Caldecott who clinches his third ever stage on a Dakar (after winning in Smara and Kayes last year), but also for his KTM-Repsol team boss Jordi Arcarons who asked him to join the squad just a month ago when Duran injured himself.

After catching up the front men, Caldecott spent most of his day with Fretigne (YAM -- n12), Grider (KTM -- n23), De Gavardo (KTM -- n4) and Despres (KTM -- n1). Enough for the Aussie to win the stage having left later.

The gap between Caldecott and his runner up on the day just shows how impressive he was today. Indeed, the KTM rider beat second placed Andy Grider by over 3'. The American newcomer on the Dakar who finished third in the Tunisia rally certainly enjoyed the company of the big guns but could find it hard tomorrow, starting off second, when navigation will be key.

Grabbing third spot, Cyril Despres made the best of his late starting position. The experienced Frenchman had indeed taken it easy yesterday in order to have his main rivals within shooting distance for the first kilometres in Africa. As a result of that, the title holder is back in the overall leadership. His main rival, as expected looks to be KTM Repsol leader Marc Coma (6th today) who is 1'16" adrift.

-dakar.com-

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Series Dakar
Drivers Cyril Despres , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Jordi Arcarons , Andy Caldecott , Ruben Faria