Francesco Chaleco Lopez wins stage 3 from Pisca to Nazca  Peru in this years Dakar Rally.

Francesco "Chaleco" Lopez wins stage 3 from Pisca to Nazca, Peru in this year's Dakar Rally.

It didn't take too long for normalcy to return to the Dakar Rally and normal in the world's biggest rally usually translates to a Red Bull KTM at the top of the overall standings. Although he didn't win today's stage from Pisca to Nazca in Peru, four-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres did take over at the top of the overall standings after three stages of the race.

Despres finished third today in a stage that started in the big, steep sand dunes before moving to the rolling terrain of Peru en route to Nazca. The stage was won by Francesco "Chaleco" Lopez, the Tamarugal Racing XC KTM rider winning his second stage of this year's rally and the fifth of his career after starting the day in 30th. Today's win followed his 28th in yesterday's stage and bumped the Chilean rider up to second in the overall standings - two minutes and 51 seconds behind Despres.

Third place today went to Husqvarna Rally Team by Speedbrain's Paulo Goncalves, the Portuguese rider having his best day thus far in the rally. The result bumped Goncalves up 31 spots in the overall standings to 16th as he fights back from a 15-minute time penalty from yesterday's stage.

Third place overall is now held by Team Ullevalseter's Pal Anders Ullevalseter, the Norwegian rider methodically working his way up through the standings.

The three KTMs are being chased in the overall standings by the two Yamahas ridden by Frenchman Olivier Pain and David Casteau, respectively. The pair are separated by just five seconds and they trail Despres by a few ticks over six minutes.

Despres' American teammate Kurt Caselli slid down the standings a little bit today, the Californian ending up 30th in today's third stage to drop to 19th overall. He is 20 minutes and 34 seconds behind Despres.

If Caselli slid down the standings a little bit, then Joan Barreda freefalled. Yesterday's stage winner and the overall leader going into today's stage dropped all the way to 18th overall after finishing today's stage outside the top 40.

Barreda's Australian teammate Matt Fish also had a rough day, the Husky rider getting stuck in the sand dunes and losing over five minutes. He ended up 40th on the day and dropped to 31st overall. Fish was third in yesterday's stage and sat sixth going into today's run.

The second American in the race, Honda's Johnny Campbell, suffered with mechanical problems today at the just the six-mile mark. He was working to fix the problem, but has yet to finish the stage.

Ruben Faria, Despres' main support rider, also had a technical problem that cost him some 10 minutes. The Portuguese rider, who was second overall after yesterday's stage, dropped to 11th after finishing 24th today.

By Cycle News Staff

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