After settling in with two stages that were relatively trouble-free, riders on Tuesday tackled a massive 521 km of special and 231 of road riding that took them through desert canyons, up to an altitude of 3378 m before descending down into the forested areas in the most northern provinces of Argentina just below the border with Bolivia. This area is new territory for the Dakar regulars.
Coma, who celebrated his first Stage win for the 2011 edition after mastering the tricky navigation to perfection, described his ride as "a really authentic Dakar day". "I'm happy with where I am," the Spanish rider commented at the end of the day. "I took advantage of a little navigation mistake by Cyril Despres. Of course it's important to win a special, but my aim is to win the rally".
Despres, first out today after winning the first two stages, had mixed fortunes at the beginning of the special when he encountered a number of spectators crossing the piste, which was enough to momentarily disturb his concentration. Then after a small navigation error around the first waypoint, he settled down to do some serious damage control. "Marc Coma caught up with me very quickly," he said. I was very careful during the first 10 km and then after 11 km I got it completely wrong. I didn't lose two hours, but several precious minutes. In the end, I limited the damage, because I finished 20 seconds behind Marc. He must have gained 2 minutes 20 seconds on me. It's not huge amount of time, but I would've liked to have kept it for myself". The 2011 Dakar is still wide open but the rivalry between the two KTM riders is already omnipresent and they are both fighting hard for every small advantage.
While Coma had moved into second as early as the second waypoint and took and retained the lead from the third, Despres fought his way back into contention with the same determination that is his hallmark racing style. By waypoint seven he was in sixth place. He then slipped into third at waypoint nine and crossed the line in second place just over two minutes behind Coma.
Ruben Faria, Cyril's teammate had another good day. He was in the top ten in the first half of the special then moved up the order to finish in fifth. Ruben hangs on to third place in the overalls and trails the leader by 9:38. Coma's teammate Juan Pedrero is 19:22 behind the leader in 10th overall, to solidify the KTM quartet's position among the top ranked competitors. With three of the thirteen stages and a day of very hard riding, the KTM factory riders are holding up well on the new KTM 450 Rally bike, especially developed to conform to the new regulations that limit the professionals to the smaller bike.
After leaving San Salvador de Jujuy tomorrow the riders must cross the Andes via the Paso de Jama at an oxygen robbing 4800 m altitude before plunging down to Calama in Chile and the notorious Atacama Desert, the world's driest region. It will be another relentless energy sapping day on the bikes with 554 km on the road and a 207 km special. Having crossed the border from Argentina into Chile the route of the 33rd edition of the rally turns north and riders will head for the northern most tip of Chile, right on the border with Peru.
Stage 3 Results
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM, 4:18.55
2, Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM at 2:21
3, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal BMW, at 3:36
4, Olivier Pain, France, Yamaha, at 4:34
5, Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM, at 5.46
10, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM, at 10:53
Overall Standings after Stage 2
1, Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM 09:38:58
2, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM, at 0:14
3, Ruben Faria, Portugal, KTM, at 9:38 (Penalty 00:01.00)
4, Paolo Goncalves, Portugal BMW at 10:43
5, Jose Rodrigues, Brazil, BMW at 16:07
10, Juan Pedrero, Spain, KTM, at 19:22
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