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Dakar 2009: Commanding lead for Coma on first stage of Dakar.

The first special of the 2009 Dakar should have been an uneventful warm-up but of the four KTM factory riders only Marc Coma made it through untroubled during the 371 kms from Buenos Aires to Santa Rosa to take a commanding lead.

The three other KTM factory riders all ran into major tyre problems. And they weren't the only ones - many riders, of all abilities and speeds, arrived at the end of the stage on ruined rubber, or in many cases, on their rims. As a result Marc Coma shares the virtual podium with some unexpected rivals. In second place (at 22'05) is Polish policeman Jacek Czachor (KTM), with Miran Stanovnik (KTM) third (at 24'42). Jordi Viladoms is back in 20th position (at 40'22) with Cyril Despres 22nd (at 41'48). At the time of writing, the fourth member of the team, Alain Duclos, is 80 kilometres from the end of the special and riding on his rim.

Marc Coma: "We knew it would be hard on tyres here so I elected to use an inner tube instead of a mousse on the rear. And for me at least the gamble paid off - I took it easy and didn't have any problems. But that was today, tomorrow could be a different story and instead of being 40 minutes in front I could be 40 minutes behind. I think this is going to be a very hard race - especially for the head!"

Jordi Viladoms: "Like Marc and Cyril I decided to use a tube and punctured after only 50 kilometres. It took me about 20 minutes to put a new tube in and during that time a lot of riders came past me. When I got going again the dust was crazy and I had to take a few risks to get past some slower riders and limit the damage. If it carries on like this it looks like tyres will be the referee of this race!"

Cyril Despres: "Obviously I knew I was taking a risk starting on a tube but even now I can't say I regret my decision. I really took care, slowed down in the corners and was generally riding slower than Marc. It was just a question of bad luck. It wasn't hitting a rock that caused me to puncture it must have been a thorn or a nail. I only noticed when I came to a corner and by that time it was too late - the tyre was destroyed. I rode with it as long as I could and then eventually hard to stop and pull it off. I rode the last 80 kilometres on the rim. Now the problem is what tactic to adopt. Do I ride slowly for the rest of the race and hope the others have problems, or do I take a risk, ride hard and try and pull back the time?"

The first stage ended at Santa Rosa de la Pampa after riders completed the first liason of of 196 kilometres, followed by a timed 371km stage and a second liaison of 166km, almost 400 km of very fast racing and a chance to discover the famous Pampas of Argentina. Stage two, which takes riders 837 km to Puerto Madryn in Patagonia is the longest stage in the rally and the most southern point on the more than 9000 km route through South America.

2009/01/03 | 20:15 CET | Editor: MR/HS/KTM

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