Day Six Dakar 2010: KTM's Despres extends overall lead; second in Stage Five

Photography by J. Van Oers

KTM's Cyril Despres reveled in the fast conditions of Stage Five of the Dakar as riders tackled 668 km with a long 483 km special through the foothills of the Atamaca Desert in Chile, finishing just 1'30 behind stage winner Chilean Francisco Lopez to extend his overall lead to 37'37

The second longest stage in the Dakar 2010 from Copiapo to Antofagasta was billed as one that would test riders' concentration and stamina. It also had its share of drama. KTM's Marc Coma, who lead the field at CP3 with more than five minutes advantage on Despres then lost half an hour with a damaged tyre before Italian KTM rider Luca Manca in a huge sporting gesture, allowed him to replace it with one of his. Coma, the 2009 winner hangs on to overall seventh ranking but trails arch rival Despres by 1h16'55''.

Run of bad luck for title holder Coma
Marc Coma was understandably disappointed after looking like he was set to win the stage and make up some of the deficit on the overall leader. "This year isn't really my year," he said. "But I have to try and stay positive and make the most of the rally." Coma's first blow came with a 22 minute penalty in the first timed stage for a speeding infringement. Then he had technical problems followed by today's difficulties. Stage five also saw solid results from KTM riders Ruben Faria of Portugal and Norwegian Pal Ullevalseter while French KTM rider Alain Duclos and Ullevalseter have also moved into the top five in the overall standings. The stage also ended the hopes of one of Despres' toughest rivals when David Casteu took a bad fall from his bike and was subsequently airlifted out with a broken leg.

Demand for fitness and concentration
The day's ride offered up fast sections, boulders, rocky off-road sections and an introduction to the soft Chilean terrain called fesh-fesh, challenges that Despres had predicted would need peak physical fitness and absolute concentration. Tomorrow riders have another challenging and fast day ahead of them that takes them inland from Antofagasta in a wide sweeping curve and down to Iquique where they finish the 418 km special back on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. To add spice to the ride, they will tackle a steep sandy descent to the finish line at the Iquique bivouac. Stage Five Results 1. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia 2. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (at 1'30) 3. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha 4. Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM 5. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM 19. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM

Overall after Stage Five
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia (at 37'37)
3. .Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
4. Alain Duclos, France, KTM
5. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
7. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM

Images J. van Oers


Day Five Dakar: Stage Four win for KTM's Marc Coma

Marc Coma, the current Dakar title holder and KTM-supported rider rose to the challenge on Tuesday to take victory in the fourth stage of the Dakar 2010 as riders descended down the Andes into Chile heading for the notorious Atacama Desert.

KTM's Cyril Despres came in third in the stage, 3'14 behind Coma but continues to maintain his overall lead. He is currently almost nine minutes in front of second placed David Casteu in the overall rankings.

Good terrain for KTM
Happy to be back in the desert and on terrain that suits the KTM bikes, Despres said the fourth stage had been good. "We finally hit a terrain that is better for our KTM bikes. It's nice to have the wind in the face and to pick up speed... Navigation was fun too with the first changes in course - which were pretty tricky by the way. And the first small dunes, the first camel grass... the desert, for sure!"

Good confidence boost fort Coma
Coma's stage victory was an important boost to the professional Spanish rider, who, along with Despres has dominated the international rally sport in recent years. He has now climbed into sixth overall but is still almost 39 minutes behind Despres in the overall reckoning, 22 of which resulted from a speed penalty on day two. Coma said it had been an important day after some bad results and bad luck. "We got our good habits back and we got back on the right track. I am very happy to be here. It's good for the moral of the team after a few bad days. The strategy is something you do each day. We will make the most of the race, climb in the standings, and move forward... till the end. We won't let our guard down!"

The Dakar Rally is - as both Coma and Despres, both former winners know from experience - is a law unto itself and anything can happen to shake up the order at any point in the race. Indeed Despres said before the stage that there were "a couple of very tough days ahead of us and in those conditions you can go from hero to zero in a very short space of time!"

Shortened stage
Due to the late arrival of a number of competitors in Monday's stage, organizers decided to delay the start today by one and a half hours and to shorten the route. Instead of the planned 203 km special, riders only had to contend with 160 km and the finish was moved forward to the third control point. "Navigation was certainly not easy," said KTM's Stefan Huber, traveling with the KTM-supported riders. "The mountains and the sandy terrain all looks very much the same!"

Riders descended from around 3000 m altitude high in the Argentinean Andes from Flambala to Copiapo in Chile. Organizers referred to the stage as "an absolute desert special". Competitors will get four tastes of the blisteringly dry conditions in the Atacama Desert in the 2010 edition of the race, an area, said to be drier even than the notorious Death Valley, which has never recorded rain.

Stage Four Results
1. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM
2. David Casteu, France, Sherco
3. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (at 3'14)
4. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
5. Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, BMW

Overall after Stage Four
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. David Casteu, France, Sherco (at 8'53)
3. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
4. Luca Manca, Italy, KTM
5. Alain Duclos, France, KTM
8. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM

Images J. van Oers


Day Four Dakar: Stage three victory and overall lead for KTM's Despres

KTM factory-supported rider Cyril Despres struck hard to take a commanding victory in the third stage of the 2010 Dakar on day four of the epic 9000 km ride through Argentina and Chile ride to move into overall lead in this motor sports classic.

Hitting the serious sand for the first time in the race and tackling some difficult technical sections, Despres, the 2009 World Rally Champion came in 10 minutes 40 seconds ahead of Helder Rodrigues in the stage and now has an overall lead of just over 10 minutes. Indeed Monday, which took the riders 441 km from La Roija to Flambala, shook up the standing order of the first days as the bikes also started their climb up into the Andes.

KTM's Marc Coma who was knocked down to overall fourteenth on Day three after incurring a 22 minute speeding penalty in the first timed stage clawed back a few positions and is now eighth overall but still trails his arch rival Despres with a significant 42 minute deficit. Coma also experienced some technical problems on a day where conditions tested riders and machines. The winner of last year's Dakar finished ninth in the third stage.

It was also bad luck also for KTM rider Spain's Jordi Viladoms who took a tumble at the 70 km mark and was transported to the bivouac at Fiambala. Medical reports indicate no severe injuries for Viladoms but he will remain under observation as a precaution and must therefore draw a line under his Dakar efforts for 2010.

For the French born Despres, a veteran and multiple winner of the African editions, Monday's ride was a taste of the terrain he is accustomed to in Africa. "This is one of those stages when you set out in the morning and you think to yourself, 'ok, 180 km - that will be easy. We'll soon be at the bivouac'. But there you are, we've just spent three hours battling on the bikes. It was a really African-like stage: physically tough with the heat, soft dunes and mechanical aspects to deal with. ... it was a very complicated day".

Stage Three Results
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha (at 10'40)
3. Paolo Goncalves, Portugal, BMW
4. David Casteu, France, Sherco
5. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
9. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM

Overall after Stage Three
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. David Casteu, France, Sherco (at 10'03)
3. .Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
4. Luca Manca, Italy, KTM
5. Alain Duclos, France, KTM
8. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM

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