It is looking like this years Dakar rally is going to be a battle right to the finish. Neither Despres or Coma seem to be able to gain a significant advantage, with the lead swapping back and forth nearly every day.
97 riders started this, the next to last, stage of the Dakar. Todays course is a little shorter with a 100 km transfer to the 275 km special stage. If you noticed that Speedbrain Husqvarna rider Paulo Gonclaves is not in the overall standings from yesterday, it is because he got hit with a six hour penalty by the stewards for receiving outside assistance on stage 8.
Check 4 – Despres got out to an early lead of nearly 5 minutes, but that has started to come back. Here is the order through check 4: Rodriguez, Despres, Gonclaves, Ullevalseter, Coma, Viladoms, Faria, Zanol. Despres is just over 2 min ahead of Coma here.
Check 5 – Coma has had a problem, dropping nearly 10 minutes in this section, apparently he got way off course.
Finish Line – Portugal’s Helder Rodriguez takes the stage win today over Despres. Here is how they came across the line: Rodriguez, Despres, Viladoms, Barreda, Gonclaves, Ullevalseter, Botturi, Verhoeven, Faria. Coma is clear down in 18th for the day. It will take something of a miracle for Coma to overcome Despres now.