Gauloises KTM’s Cyril Despres finished 16th in today’s final stage of the Telefonica Dakar Rally, the Frenchman cruising to his first-ever overall victory in the grueling off-road race. And it was an American out front today as Kellon Walch book-ended his fifth-place finish in stage one with a victory in stage 16 to earn 22nd overall.
Although his Red Bull KTM teammate Chris Blais didn’t earn a stage win, the Californian was more consistent throughout the rally and that consistency brought him a top-10 finish in his first try at the event. Blais ended up eighth today and eighth overall. His team manager Scot Harden was 26th today and 17th overall.
The road to victory for Despres started early with his runner-up finish in the opening stage. He followed that up with the following stage results: 3rd,3rd,4th,3rd,7th,1st,2nd, 77th, 1st, 16th.
Second place overall went to Marc Coma in his second attempt at the Dakar. Coma ended up nine minutes and 17 seconds behind Despres.
The battle for third went all the way to the finish line with Alfie Cox holding off his teammate Isidre Esteve by just 22 seconds.
Fifth place went to the lone non-KTM man in the top 10, Yamaha’s David Fretigne. Fretigne rode his WR450 to three stage wins en route to his fifth-place overall finish.
Although Walch’s rally ended and started on high notes, the 11th stage of the rally is what killed his chances for a top-10 finish. Walch had problems in stage 11 and ended up 100th on the day, but he will no doubt remember his rookie Dakar by his 16th-stage win.