Marc Coma extended his lead over archrival Cyril Despres after taking victory in a punishing 508KM special stage – his third stage victory of the 2011 Dakar. The Spanish KTM rider won the stage from Despres by just 1m 55s to take his overall lead of the event to 9m 19s.
He said: “It was a hard stage but it turned out well at the end of the day. I rode with Despres and Lopez and we took turns to open the way and at a very fast pace. It was a good stage after a complicated one yesterday. But in the end, everything turned out fine. I'm glad, because it was a 500-km special. That's a hell of a lot".
Despres started the stage strongly and initially opened a gap on Coma before the Spaniard caugh and passed him. Despres said: Lopez led the way on all the quick parts while I led through the dunes. The problem with navigation is that some riders stick to your back wheel like leeches - but that's just part of the game".
Aprilia man Francisco Lopez remains the Coma and Despres’ biggest rival. The Chilean rider is now just 22m 48s behind Coma and has been a match for the two factory men over the last few stages.
Lopez said: “It was a very long stage with many kinds of tracks. Fast in the first part, more technical in the second. Despres reached me, but he let me open the track. I wanted to keep a good rhythm, then, by then, after Coma joined us, they went in front of me.”
Brit Craig Bounds has now been repatriated back to Wales following his heavy crash where he dislocated his shoulder. There are now no British riders still in the Dakar after Jenifer Morgan broke her leg on stage three.