Dakar 2012 - El Fin

We last left our riders traipsing through the desert of Chile during stage 9 of the 14 stage race of Dakar 2012, one of the longest yet most rewarding stretches of the race. Ending at the beautiful Pacific coastline, it takes over 500 km of dusty, dirty road in which Marc Coma started out in the lead. Following him, was Cyril Despres who had previously been in the lead until a mud bog brought him down for nearly ten full minutes. But it only took him one-third of the 9th stage to get ahead of Coma once again and he finished the stage ahead of him by 2 minutes and 28 seconds. But, after changing their engines and accruing a 15 minute penalty, it was Portuguese Yamaha rider Helder Rodrigues who took the stage win.

The tenth stage of the race took the riders out of Chile and into Peru, the country where the 2012 Dakar race would come to its finale. But the ride was another tricky one with 300 kilometers through dunes and more of that sandy fesh-fesh. Until this stage, overall leader Despres and his close rival Coma have dominated the standings making it every bit a two man race in the motorcycle category and only giving a couple of stage wins to other riders. This stage, however, throws the two riders off course and allows Joan Barreda Bort, a Husqvarna rider from Spain to steal the stage win despite being a heck of a lot farther down in the 2012 Dakar standings. Coma managed to come in second, just two minutes ahead of Despres though Despres still held on to the overall lead by a mere two seconds.

For the first time ever in the history of Dakar, the races hit the dusty off-roads of Peru. Stage eleven boasts unknown territory to Dakar veterans and first time riders alike and it shows. All three top riders of the last stage quickly find themselves off course and suffer from severe time loss. This gives some unknown riders of this season such as Spanish KTM rider Gerard Farres Guell and French KTM rider Johhnny Aubert the lead in this stage. But it doesn't take long for Despres to shoot back into the lead followed by Farres Guell who shows some great riding while Coma comes in third with a two minute gap between him and Despres, widening the gap between the two overall leaders by just over two minutes.

Stage twelve stands as one of the shortest in the 2012 Dakar series but for good reason as it is also one of the toughest. Taking them along the coast of Peru, the stage gets cut even shorter as the riders must start 50 kilometers up from the original starting point due to flooding Rios. Coma takes advantage of the delayed start and hits the course hard right from the start, quickly passing Despres. But the dunes are where Coma exceeds and in the last 50 kilometers of the stage he manages to pull away even farther, coming in first almost four minutes ahead of Despres and taking the overall lead back once again. Despres seems to struggle and is also passed up by Barreda Bort and Spanish KTM rider Jordi Viladoms who take second and third, respectively. This marks only the second time during the 2012 Dakar that Despres finished a stage out of the top three since the first stage when he came in 13th and the 8th stage where he was drastically affected by the mud bog and came in at 7th.

With the final two stages to go, stage thirteen promised to be tough with a dozen rows of dunes between the riders and the final stage. Unfortunately for Coma, who became the overall leader after the last stage, starting the riders through the dunes is not an easy task. This was just further proved when Coma made another one of his navigational errors, allowing Despres to get back out in front of him. But it was Rodrigues who would take first in this stage with Despres right behind him in second. Coma, however, wouldn't find his way into the stage finish until much later, finding himself in 48th place for the stage and back in second place overall with an 11 minute gap between him and Despres.

With the final stage being the smallest of the bunch at merely 29 kilometers, the start of stage 14 looked as though Despres had already won the 2012 Dakar. But with both Despres and Coma vying for their fourth Dakar win, there was no doubt that Coma wouldn't be going down without one final fight and with the two switching the overall lead almost every other stage anything could happen. It turns out to be Pal-Anders Ullevalseter from Norway who came in first during the final stage while Coma took second. Despres was careful and meticulous and came in at his second worst stage finish of 10th place. Still, Despres rolls into the final stop of the 2012 Dakar in Lima, Peru with still enough of a time gap between him and Coma to take his fourth Dakar title and give KTM their 11th Dakar win.

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