Dakar 2010: Goodbye Chile, hello Argentina. Despres retains overall lead


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KTM’s Cyril Despres put in a solid day’s ride across the Andes to San Juan on Wednesday to retain the overall lead by 1 hour 20’54” as the Dakar “caravan” 2010 returned to Argentina. Despres was seventh in the 11th stage but only 4’21” behind the stage leader Frans Verhoeven.

Despres said it had been a nice stage and confirmed he is having too much fun to hold back for the sake of caution. “It was strange at the beginning, because after 13 km, there was a banner stopping us following a track,” he said after the day’s ride. “I went straight ahead for about 80 meters but I turned around after I saw Marc Coma coming back in the other direction followed by other riders. After that, we carried on as a group. I rather enjoyed myself. It was quick today, 220 km in a flash. Was I being extremely careful? No. When I climb on the bike, I just can’t hold myself back. I just want to have fun”.

American Jonah Street (KTM) second in the stage
Second in Stage 11 was KTM’s American rider Jonah Street who was denied line honors by a mere three seconds as riders turned east, crossed the Andes and now head for the finish in Buenos Aires this weekend. Third place went to French KTM rider Alain Duclos, making it another good day for the Austrian sports motorcycle manufacturer. Street’s ride was impressive, especially his ongoing fight with Verhoeven that went right down to the wire. He was fastest at the first checkpoint by just seven seconds and had to relinquish the line glory by the slimmest of margins.

Duclos (KTM) aiming for a top five finish
Duclos said the day had not been without incident for him but he was happy to have finished with the third fastest time. “Today the race wasn’t too great for me but it’s a good end to the day. It just goes to show that on a Dakar anything can happen.” Duclos said he started with the intention of a top five finish and now he was “fighting to make it come true!”

Ullevalseter (KTM) consolidates his second overall place
But it was KTM Norwegian rider Pal Anders Ullevalseter that came off best on the day. He finished fourth, just 2″26′ behind Verhoeven and consolidated his second place behind Despres in the overall standings. Ullevalseter continues to chase a possible podium in Buenos Aires and succeeded in putting some minor distance between himself and his close rivals, the Chilean Lopez and Helder Rodrigues of Portugal.

Riders had an early start to the day and faced hard, fast and often winding track, most of it downhill as they went over the Paso Libertadores pass at an altitude of 3500 m and made the descent. The timed special was 220 km. Yesterday’s Stage winner KTM’s Marc Coma opened the road but a navigation error at the 13 km mark cost him an extra 3 km with another to get him back on track. He eventually finished in ninth place, just over five minutes behind the leader.

Tomorrow’s stage from San Juan to San Raphael will be another fast day in the saddle and includes a timed special of 476 km.

Stage Eleven Results
1. Franz Verhoeven, Netherlands, BMW
2. Jonah Street, USA, KTM, (at 0’3″)
3. Alain Duclos, France, KTM
4. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM
5. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
7. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM (at 4’21”)
9. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM (at 5’08”)

Overall standings after Stage Eleven
1. Cyril Despres, Andorra, KTM
2. Pal Ullevalseter, Norway, KTM (at 1 h 20’54”)
3. Francisco Lopez, Chile, Aprilia
4. Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Yamaha
5. Alain Duclos, France KTM
16. Marc Coma, Spain, KTM