Cyril Despres did all he could in today's 11th stage of the Dakar Rally to claw back some of the time on overall leader Marc Coma. Despres won the stage, his third of this year's rally, beating Coma by two minutes and 12 seconds, but Coma limited the damage in the overall standings where he leads Despres by a healthy 15 minutes and 59 seconds with just a few days to go.
Today's stage offered up some 230 miles of timed section and Despres was the master, gaining back time on Coma - though not enough to seriously worry the Spaniard as the rally starts to wind down in Argentina. Still, the stage win was the 26th of Despres' illustrious Dakar career.
"To succeed, you have to try first, and I'm trying," Despres said. "I'm doing everything I can, everything I know. It has to be said it was a superb special. Even if the time wasn't great, it was a pleasure to ride. In 2007, I won two days before the finish, and if I don't have a hope, it's impossible to ride at speeds like that. I'm still hoping and carrying on attacking. With Marc [Coma], we both ride KTM bikes, which is an advantage. We're quite close, but for the moment, the fat lady hasn't sung yet. There are still two days left."
Third place today went to Chilean Francisco Lopez Contardo, the Aprilia man following the two KTM rivals home. Contardo, however, looked to have the stage won, but a navigational snafu cost him the win.
Yamaha-mounted Hector Rodrigues finished fourth in today's stage and remains fourth overall behind Despres, Coma and Contardo.
American Quinn Cody made up for yesterday's poor result with his best stage finish of his debut Dakar, the Californian finishing sixth in today's 11th stage. He is now ninth in the overall standings.
"I felt really good on this special," Cody said. "This terrain around here is exactly like on the Bajas, only way smoother. The terrain in the mountains was really similar to southern Bajas, so I feel comfortable. Every day, I'm getting more comfortable with the navigation and the road-book. I had a good time today and it was fun. I feel that I can get a good rhythm, read the road-book and ride fast at the same time. It's taken me this long to get comfortable with it, though."
Jonah Street, meanwhile, finished 18th today and is 15th overall after yesterday's stage saw him get lost.
"Today was a great day," Coma, the overall leader said. "It was a hard day, though, and very long with a lot of rocks and dry river beds. In the end, both parts were superb and we managed to ride at a good pace. There's still tomorrow, which will be a hard day, so anything is still possible. Tomorrow evening, we'll obviously be closer to the finish, but I have to make sure I get through the day okay. A calm approach is best: if something happens, then I'll just have to adapt, but if I take things professionally, then it should all be okay I repeat: tomorrow is another long day. We'll see what happens afterwards."