Norwegian rider Pal Ullevalseter stole the glory on the penultimate stage of the 2010 Dakar on Friday ahead of overall leader Cyril Despres and his fellow KTM supported rider Marc Coma.
KTM's Cyril Despres tackles the last of the dunes
Ullevalseter's line honors allowed him to edge forward ahead of Chilean Francesco Lopez in the overall standings. He is now second overall with a slim four minute advantage over the Chilean rider. While the battle for the minor places continues to intensify as the rally heads for the Argentinean capital on Saturday, the French-born Despres still has a handsome lead of one hour four minutes and 12 seconds, even if the silverware is not in his hands just yet.
First ever Dakar stage victory for Ullevalseter
Ullevalseter and Despres led the pack through the day, which took riders from Argentina's San Rafael to Santa Rosa, across the Sierra Nevada and back onto the pampas with a timed special of 368 km and a total ride of 725 km. Riders were in their element on fast to seriously fast track as Ullevalseter later told organizers: "A fantastic stage for me," he said. "I started third and after 40km I was in the lead. Today was a route for big bikes. We could really attack and in the last hours I was riding at more than 160km/h. It's perfect!"
Ullevalseter (KTM) a good chance for overall second
Despres enjoys a fast ride on his trusted KTM
Despres too was satisfied with his ride and said it was easier to concentrate with some speed under his tires. On the previous stage Despres was stung on the wrist by a wasp, which he later said was both painful and distracting. Speaking about the day's ride, the overall leader commented: "There was only a small section of sandy tracks and about 20 km of sand dunes. It's always a pleasure to ride that. The sand dunes have different colors and different shapes and the there are bushes here and there. It was cool when the liaison section started then it started to heat up. It's much easier to stay focused when you drive a bit fast. I trust my KTM and my tires. I knew I would drive fast and it would be fine."
Tomorrow it will be Despres' task to take Stage 14 in his stride and arrive in good shape at the finish to pick up his third Dakar title. He has a ride of 666km ahead of him including the final timed special of 202 km. The stage is described as flat and very fast, conditions seemingly made to measure for the KTM rider.
Coma continues to turn his Dakar 2010 around
Coma continues to turn his race around
Coma, last year's winner and Despres' eternal rival in this and other leading international rallies, has now turned his race around after a series of problems and some hefty penalties. He has taken line honors in four stages of this edition and his actual riding time (penalties excluded) puts him only 12 seconds behind the leader.
And now the finale...
The ride from Santa Rosa to Buenos Aires tomorrow is the last stage of a ride that took competitors across Argentina into the challenging but fascinating desert landscape of coastal Chile and back across the Andes to return to the Argentine capital. When they cross the line they will have ridden almost 9000 km.
Stage 13 Results
1. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
2. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (at 43')
3. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM (at 2'46")
4. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
5. Alan Duclos France, KTM
Standings after Stage 13
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM (at 1:04'12")
3. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia, (at 1:08.34)
4. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
5. David Fretigne, France, Yamaha
15. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM